More support for Bishop Lee

from the Diocese of Virgina

Province III Bishops Issue Statement of Support of Peter James Lee, Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia

On January 26, the Rt. Rev. David Colin Jones, Bishop Suffragan of the Diocese of Virginia, read a statement to the 212th Annual Council of the Diocese of Virginia signed by 16 bishops of Province III of the Episcopal Church supporting the Rt. Rev. Peter James Lee, Bishop of the Diocese of Virginia, and the diocesan Executive Board and Standing Committee for the decisions and actions taken concerning the congregations that have withdrawn from The Episcopal Church. The complete statement follows.


January 26, 2007

We the Bishops of Dioceses in Province III (the Middle Atlantic area) of The Episcopal Church commend and support our brother The Right Reverend Peter J. Lee, Bishop of Virginia, the Standing Committee and the Executive Committee of the Diocese of Virginia in their recent action and statement concerning several parishes within the Diocese of Virginia which have withdrawn from The Episcopal Church. We support completely these decisions necessitated by the Canons of our Church and morally responsible. Moreover, we commend Bishop Lee for the many ways over several years in which he tried to pastorally minister to, find appropriate compromises, and charitably respond to his detractors. We are proud to be his colleagues.

The Right Reverend Robert W. Ihloff, President of Province III, Bishop of Maryland
The Right Reverend Nathan D. Baxter, Bishop of Central Pennsylvania
The Right Reverend Wayne P. Wright, Bishop of Delaware
The Right Reverend James J. Shand, Bishop of Easton
The Right Reverend John L. Rabb, Bishop Suffragan of Maryland
The Right Reverend Robert D. Rowley, Bishop of North West Pennsylvania
The Right Reverend Charles E. Bennison, Bishop of Pennsylvania
The Right Reverend Frank Neff Powell, Bishop of Southern Virginia
The Right Reverend David C. Jones, Bishop Suffragan of Virginia
The Right Reverend John B. Chane, Bishop of Washington
The Right Reverend A. Theodore Eastman, Bishop of Maryland, Retired
The Right Reverend Jane Holmes Dixon, Bishop Suffragan of Washington, Retired
The Right Reverend William Michie Klusmeyer, Bishop of West Virginia
The Right Reverend Michael W. Creighton, Bishop of Central Pennsylvania, Retired
The Right Reverend Charles L. Longest, Bishop Suffragan of Maryland, Retired
The Right Reverend David K. Leighton, Bishop of Maryland Retired

Virginia goes to court

The Diocese of Virginia has responded in court to claims regarding real and personal property made by 11 congregations where the majority membership has voted to leave The Episcopal Church but have not vacated or relinquished that property to the Diocese.

Click the continue reading tab to see the news release.

Read more »

Centrist-ism?

This Washington Post article on the Very Rev. Shannon Johnston, newly-elected bishop of Virginia, gives me an opportunity to ask friends who consider themselves centrists, as Johnston does, what exactly a centrist is.

Take this passage:

"In a candidate questionnaire and in other comments about the role of gays and lesbians in the church, Johnston has been vague, if centrist. In a 2005 article posted on his church's Web site about the dispute, he wrote: 'I insist that the answer will not come from one of the two 'sides' but rather will be found in the Center.' "

Leaving aside the divination of the Center indicated by the use of the upper case c, let's assume we are arguing about the sum of 2+2. If I say 6, and you say 4, the answer is not 5. One of us is right and one of us is wrong. If I say the answer is 10, and you say the answer is 4, we would split the difference at 7. Which means that the more extreme my error, the further a certain sort of centrist moves in my direction.

I don't imagine that all centrists are difference splitters, but I don't really understand how they decide what they believe, or what they do when a divisive question requires a yes or no answer. Celibate or monogamous gay people--as a category, one can argue the merits of individuals--either are acceptable as ordained ministers of the Gospel in God's eyes, or they are not. You can certainly attempt to nuance your position by saying Yes, but... or No, but... Yes, but not now. No, but gay couples are welcome in all but leadership roles in our parishes. But when it comes to deciding what principle the Church or the Communion will adapt, only the Yes or the No really matter.

There is a second question, of course: Can I live in communion with people who disagree with me on the first question? Perhaps centrists are those who can answer the first question either way, but who are willing to answer the second question: Yes.

But I answer the second question Yes, and am regularly told that my ideas can be dismissed as leftist because I have answered the first question Yes as well. (Indeed, I identify myself as a liberal, in part because I think many who claim to be centrist are hiding their agendas for political advantage. Recent efforts on the House of Bishops and Deputies List to paint Ephraim Radner as a centrist fall into this category. Radner, a member of the Covenant Design Group, is affiliated with the Anglican Communion Institute, which has been associated with the Anglican Communion Network since its inception.)

So who are centrists? What do they believe and why do they believe it?

Many people who claim to be in the center strike me as people who don’t want to travel with the baggage of an opinion, and the attendant allies. I don’t have a problem with that, as long as those people don’t look down in a lordly fashion on us sweating partisans and suggest that we all just get over ourselves.

It is easier for me to understand, and to converse with leading figures on the Anglican right like Kendall Harmon and Matt Kennedy than with those who think that sitting out this struggle is a transcendent moral act. Perhaps because it seems to me more Christian to argue with someone--see the Council of Jerusalem, or any Church council, for that matter--than to look down on them.

So, if anyone who identifies themselves as a centrist can explain their philosophy to me, I would appreciate it.

(And for a good conversation on this issue, check out haligweorc, the blog of Derek the Anglican here.

PB, religious leaders press Rice on Middle East peace efforts

By Maureen Shea
Wednesday, January 31, 2007

[Episcopal News Service] Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori joined five Christian, Jewish, and Muslim leaders from the National Interreligious Leadership Initiative for Peace in the Middle East (NILI) in a meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice January 29 to discuss the Israeli/Palestinian situation. Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Nicholas Burns and Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom John Hanford IV also participated in the meeting.

"The timing was particularly important in light of Secretary Rice's meeting February 2 with the 'Quartet' -- the United States, the European Union, Russia and the United Nations -- that is to be followed by talks between Israeli and Palestinian leaders," Jefferts Schori said. "Despite a very difficult year for Palestinians and Israelis, it is significant that 35 U.S. religious leaders, affiliated with more than two dozen Jewish, Christian and Muslim national organizations, are calling for the United States to make peace in the Middle East an urgent priority and to provide creative, determined leadership for building that peace."

Jefferts Schori was referring to the 35 religious leaders who wrote to Rice December 12 asking for a meeting with her to discuss the "urgent situation in the Middle East" and calling on the United States to make peace in the region an "urgent priority."

Read it all.

As you may already know...

...there is an important meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion coming up in mid-February. The official release on the meeting from the Anglican Communion News Service is here.

Bishop Katharine has the floor

The Living Church has been breaking a lot of news lately. Here is their latest:

Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has been allotted two sessions of next month’s primates’ meeting to describe The Episcopal Church’s response to the Windsor Report.

Sessions on the “listening process,” the proposed Anglican Covenant, and the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference, as well as social and development issues are on the agenda for the Feb. 12-19 meeting to be held at a hotel near Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania, sources in London tell The Living Church.

Archbishop Peter Carnely, the former Primate of Australia and chairman of the Panel of Reference, will brief the primates and respond to criticism that the panel has been dilatory in its work. Established as a “matter of urgency” by the 2005 primates’ meeting, the panel has released recommendations on petitions received from the Diocese of Fort Worth and from traditionalist congregations in the Canadian Diocese of New Westminster. Petitions from the Dioceses of Florida and Lake Malawi are currently under review.

Read it all.

...or weird by Michael Jackson

The BBC is reporting that British Prime Minister Tony Blair has decided not to grant Catholic adoption agencies an exemption from the UK's new anti-discrimination laws. Those agencies must choose between closing shop or accepting the new laws, which could require them to place children with gay couples.

I haven't followed this bill closely enough to have a firm opinion about it, but I haven't been impressed by the Church of England's involvement in the debate. Today, though, I am grateful for these comments by N. T. Wright, the noted scripture scholar who is the Bishop of Durham. They gave me quite a chuckle.

Wright had this to say about the new laws to Ruth Gledhill of The Times of London:

"This completely fails to take into account the views and beliefs of all those involved. The idea that New Labour - which has got every second thing wrong and is backtracking on extended drinking hours, is in a mess over this cash-for-peerages business, cannot keep all its prisons under control - the idea that New Labour can come up with a new morality which it forces on the Catholic Church after 2,000 years - I am sorry - this is amazing arrogance on the part of the Government."

As I say, I have no firm opinion on whether the the Church and the government could have reached some kind of compromise. But being called arrogant by N. T. Wright, is like being called ugly by Jabba the Hutt.

Here is why.

Guess who?

I was taken by the opening paragraph of this column from a New Mexico newspaper because I've used almost exactly the same words to describe certain people involved in the current controversey in the Episcopal Church.

Jeff Stevens of the Almagordo Daily News writes: It seems to me Republicans spend more time thinking about gay sex than any other group of people in the known world even more so than gay people trying to find other gay people with whom to have sex.

Bishop Epting is also going to Tanzania

Which I guess is a good thing. The Living Church has the story.

Father Jake points out that Bishop Epting has a brand new blog. And if you read this particular entry, you will get a pretty good sense of where the bishop stands on the issues that will be under discussion. We can only hope he follows Paul's lead when he meets Rowam Williams.

Meanwhile, do read Mark Harris's thoughts on why the covenant design process is suddenly proceeding at breakneck speed.

I don't know about you, but I have a bad feeling about whose neck it is that is going to get broken.

Pittsburgh posts its appeal

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has posted the text of its request to the erroneously named Global South Primates for Alternative Pastoral Oversight (ALPO). The request was given to several of the primates who also serve on the board of Anglican Relief and Development at a meeting in Falls Church, Va. in November.

Whether this is all the diocese will produce to comply by the Wednesday deadline with a judge's order for expedited discovery in the case that Calvary Episcopal Church has brought against the dicoese remains to be seen. It may be that the diocese is making a show of putting out on its own what it was actually forced to produce by court order. Otherwise, why release it now?

Background information on that case is here.

I haven't had a chance to read the document yet, so I'd be interested in your take on what it says.

The legal angles in the Virginia dispute

The Washington Post has a story suggesting the diocese may--just may--be on firmer legal ground in that state than the breakaway parishes.

The key paragraphs:

Martin Nussbaum, a Colorado lawyer who has represented the Roman Catholic Church and evangelical Protestant congregations but is not involved in the Episcopal Church dispute, said he believes the diocese holds the stronger legal position.

"The majority of rulings suggest that in the Episcopal Church, the secessionist congregations cannot take their stuff with them," he said.

Still, he added, there are enough inconsistencies in the way courts have handled such cases that congregational leaders are encouraged to roll the legal dice.

A visit from Congo

ENS is reporting that Archbishop Dirokpa Fidèle, Primate of the Province de L'Eglise Anglicane Du Congo (Anglican Church of Congo), just completed a visit to the Episcopal Church Center, January 22-23.

What follows are a few quotes about the relationship between the two provinces, but do read the entire story to get a sense of the great odds against which Archbishop Fidele is working.

Affirming the ongoing relationships between the Anglican Church of Congo and the Episcopal Church, Fidèle said, "We are not for division, we are for discussion and sharing ideas."

He explained that his province had previously released a statement in response to the Episcopal Church that "upholds biblical truth." But, he said, "if we have a brother here in America who is willing to help our people, I as archbishop cannot let people die. We will continue to collaborate with the Episcopal Church, especially around the issues of development."

He acknowledged that he looks forward to sitting at the table with Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori for the February 15-19 Primates Meeting in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, despite indications from some African Primates that they would boycott the meeting because of her presence.

Bishop Mdimi's voice of reason

The writings of Bishop Mdimi Mhogolo of Central Tanganyika in Tanzania has graced the blog twice previously. To read his most recent letter, click the continue reading tab. In it he explains why, despite the bitterly argued decision by the Tanzanian House of Bishops to the contrary, he is mantaining his relationships with the Episcopal Church.

A couple of excerpts:

"The issue of homosexuality with its various understandings is not only an ECUSA issue, but involves all of our development and mission partners. If one is realistic, the issue of homosexuality and their money affects all our partner organisations, Churches, missionary agencies, governments and secular organisations. We then ask ourselves, why should we single out ECUSA and treat it differently? We know that a substantial amount of money and funding that governments, Churches, and missionary societies, comes from gay and lesbian people. ....

We are not a closed Church where we reject some and welcome others. We are an open Church where even our enemies can find food, love, care and shelter. We always try to become like Jesus Christ our master, to everyone who comes into our home. The issue of homosexuality is not fundamental to the Christian faith, although many try to make it that way!! We would have become wiser if we had learned how the Roman Catholic Church, the Lutheran World Federation, the Presbyterian Church, the Reformed Churches and the Society of Friends are dealing with the issue. We are in a mess because we do not want to learn from other world Christian Communities!!! The source of our faith and mission in God is Jesus Christ. If someone has a different understanding on the essence of our faith, then we all should be alarmed. But as long as individual Episcopalians hold the one, holy, Apostolic and Catholic Faith, who am I to pass judgment now that they are not my brothers and sisters in Christ?...

We are also aware of the statement of the House of Bishops of the Anglican Church of Tanzania that expresses a severely impaired relationship with ECUSA, and that no money will be received by the Anglican Church of Tanzania from ECUSA from entities that condone homosexual practices. My understanding is that the statement of the House of Bishops, though it carries a lot of weight, it does not express the will and wishes of the whole Anglican Church of Tanzania. It is only when the other two Houses, namely the House of Laity and the House of Clergy are involved in the thinking and decision making that the statement becomes the whole Anglican Church of Tanzania."

Read more »

Epiphany West

The Rev. Richard Helmer of the Caught by the Light blog is doing a wonderful job reporting on the Epiphany West conference at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific. I was especially taken by his summary of the talk by Dr. Jenny Plane Te Pa of New Zealand, a member of the committee that wrote the Windsor Report. Richard writes:

She expressed in a moving way how many provinces of the Anglican Communion still admire how The Episcopal Church organizes and carries out its mission, and articulated sadness at the way our province has been treated as of late:

how we have been, along with the Church of Canada, unfairly singled out and patronized in the present mess, and how our LGBT members have been scapegoated in overt and subtle ways
how several (male) leaders both inside and outside of the Episcopal Church have taken advantage of weaknesses in the Episcopal Church and Anglican structures to forward potentially schismatic agendas and vilify our church membership and leadership, including ++Katharine Jefferts Schori

how the Windsor Report's recommendations against cross-jurisdictional interference have been ignored while it has, at the same time, been used as a punitive instrument -- something Dr. Te Paa has clear reason to take personally
how in some quarters The Episcopal Church has been conflated with the worst of United States foreign policy, and the complexity of our context has not been properly understood or taken into account

how The Episcopal Church has shown enormous grace and restraint in voluntarily withdrawing from Anglican structures (i.e., the Anglican Consultative Council) at the request of the Primates, and has tolerated and taken care to provide room for internal dissent

And, most critically, she noted how historically marginalized peoples in the Anglican Communion have most identified with the challenges we in The Episcopal Church now face.

About this headline

Williams "fostering schism," aide fears.

That's the headline on this story in the Sunday Telegraph concerning an email that Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Consultative Council, sent to Louie Crew, founder of Integrity. (Background is here.)

I think the headline is a stretch. In his email, Kearon says that a recent letter in which Bishop Paul Marshall of Bethlehem was sharply critical of the archbishop was "accurate." But "fostering schism" is Marshall's term, not Kearon's. The Telegraph has put the words in his mouth.

That said, Kearon may indeed believe this. But I don't think the evidence is in. And while I am at it, why do they keep saying that we "appoint" our bishops?

Diocesan Convention III

We considered two resolutions relating to the Anglican Communion at the convention which concluded a few hours ago. This resolution passed:

On The Meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion
(submitted by the Reverend Dr. Francis H. Wade, Chair of the Diocesan Deputation to General Convention)

RESOLVED, that the One Hundred Twelfth Convention of the Diocese of Washington declares its respect for and support of the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, the Twenty-Sixth Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church; and expresses its warm appreciation to the following Bishops from other nations for participating in her Service of Investiture held on November 4, 2006, at the Washington National Cathedral:

The Primate of Iglesia Anglicana de la region Central de America; The Primate of the Episcopal Anglican Church of Brazil; The Primate of the Anglican Church of Canada; The Primate of the Church of the Province of Southern Africa; The Primate of the Anglican Church of Mexico; and the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion;

The retired Primate of the Scottish Episcopal Church;

Bishops of the Anglican Church of Australia; the Scottish Episcopal Church; the Anglican Church of Canada; the Church of Pakistan; as well as others; and

The Archbishop of Canterbury; the Primate of the Anglican Church of Australia; and the Primate of the Anglican Communion in Japan (Nippon Sei Ko Kai) who sent representatives; and be it further

RESOLVED, that the Convention expresses its hope that in spite of reports that some of her peers will refuse to meet with her, all of the Primates will provide our world and our Church with an example by responding positively to our Lord’s desire that we be one as we work together to fulfill our common mission of witness and service; and be it further.
********************

Consideration of this resolution was postponed indefinitely, which seems to be our parliamentary custom when a resolution has no chance of passing:

Submitted by The Rev. Phillip C. Cato, Ph.D., Priest of the Diocese of Washington

RESOLVED, that the One Hundred Twelfth Convention of the Diocese of Washington express its extreme displeasure and firm disapproval of the action of the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, in issuing an invitation to the Rt. Rev. Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, the principal organizer and moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, which network seeks recognition as the “legitimate” expression of the Anglican Communion in the United States, and to the Bishop of Western Louisiana, to attend the meeting of Anglican Primates on February 14 in Tanzania., which invitation lends notorious credibility to the divisive efforts of Bishop Duncan, and diminishes the importance of the presence of our Presiding Bishop; and be it further

RESOLVED, that this Diocese calls upon the Presiding Bishop, the Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, and the Executive Council of the Episcopal Church, to form a commission to examine whether continued membership in the Anglican Communion is any longer beneficial to the core task of proclaiming the Gospel in this country.

Of the five or six people who spoke on the second resolution, only Dr. Cato spoke in its favor. A number of people told me privately that they thought the first resolution was punchless and the second one said what needed to be said. But none of them found their way to a microphone.

The Diocese of Washington is typically portrayed as a liberal diocese, which I think is fair. But I think we may also be thought of as an activist diocese, and I think that's not the case. For better and worse, we tend to endorse the values of the liberal establishment. Some days the emphasis falls on the first of those two words, and some days it falls on the second.

Diocesan Convention II

I seldom think that the resolutions are the most interesting part of a diocesan convention; nonetheless, they are worth reporting. We passed one on gender equity, one on studying the impact of slavery, one on immigration, one supporting the Millennium Development Goals, and one on the upcoming meeting of the Primates in February. The first four are lurking beneath the continue reading tab. The fifth one will appear in an item I will post in a few minutes.

The highlight of the convention were a presentation this morning by Diana Butler Bass on her research on church growth and vitality--( She doesn't speak from a text, so I am afraid you will have to wait for the special convention issue of the Washington Window to learn about her presentation.); and the speech given last night by the Rev. Stuart Kenworthy, rector of Christ Church, Georgetown in accepting the Bishop's Award. Stuart returned in August from serving as a military chaplain in Iraq. We hope to have that one online for you by the middle of next week.

Read more »

Diocesan Convention I

We have just concluded our diocesan convention. Bishop John Bryson Chane's address, which deals almost entirely with the life of our diocese, can be found here.

You will notice that about three-quarters of the way through the speech, he mentions a development that will cut into the time I can devote to this blog. But reinforcements are on the way. More on this in the days ahead.

A draft covenant for the Primates

ENS is reporting that: "The Anglican Communion's Covenant Design Group's report to the February meeting of the Communion's Primates will include a draft covenant, according to one of the two Episcopal Church members of the group. "

The representatives of two of the more liberal provinces Ireland and South Africa, were unable to attend. Given that, and the excerpt below, I think we have reason to be apprehensive:

[Kathy] Grieb [of Virginia Theological Seminary, a member of the Design Group] said the fact that the group's members from Ireland, South Africa and Ceylon could not be at the meeting was "unfortunate [because] it meant that the representation was unbalanced."

"Ceylon has just ordained women. South Africa has been through the whole apartheid experience and Ireland has struggled with religious conflict," Grieb said. "We could have used their experienced voices."

"There weren't very many of us to speak for the use of the covenant as binding the whole Communion together with different points of view represented in it," she said.

"The most-well-represented view was that the purpose of the covenant is preventative. According to that view, a covenant would prevent any significant change from happening in Church's doctrine and practice," she said. "Proponents of this view are eager to have a covenant in place as quickly as possible so that there will be procedures available to prevent any unwelcome innovations from their point of view."

"For some in our group, the voice that matters is the voice of the Primates," Grieb said. "The Anglican Communion, as important as the Primates are, is much bigger than the Primates. We need to hear the voices of women, of laity and of clergy. They are the Anglican Communion on the ground."

The Virginia election

The Very Rev. Shannon S. Johnston seems to be on the verge of being elected the next bishop of Virginia.

Bishop MacPherson is also going to Tanzania

Mark Harris has the story.

...and starring Rowan Williams as Dale Carnegie

The Archbishop of Canterbury's latest work, How to Lose Friends and Alienate People is selling even better in the United Kingdom than it is within the Episcopal Church.

Having arrived at the mistaken conclusion that the can spend the good will and affection that Episcopalians once felt for him to buy a truce with the leaders of the Anglican opposition, Dr. Williams has recently arranged to alienate armies of his own church members by supporting the Roman Catholic Church in its efforts to win an exemption from a new law which prohibits discriminating against gay couples who want to adopt a child.

The reviews of this performance, in which he was joined by the Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, are still coming in, but here is a sampling

Simon Barrow of Ekklesia writes: It would appear that the most senior figures in the English Catholic and Anglican churches have no real idea just how bad they look to a massive number of people right now. Living in something of an ecclesial cocoon, they express "shock" at the reaction to their determination to discriminate. (Read it all.)

Meanwhile, on the Guardian's blog, Stephen Bates writes: the archbishops have comprehensively lost this one from every point of view. No influence, no leadership, looking vaguely homophobic and wholly hypocritical and nothing to show for their johnny-come-lately last stand. (Read it all.)

Under Rowan Williams' leadership, the Anglican Communion is fast becoming known as the Church of the Human Rights Violation. He never spoke a public word against Archbishop Peter Akinola for supporting draconian anti-gay legislation in Nigeria. He maintains Bernard Malango of Central Africa on a panel of advisors, despite the fact that Malango is sheltering a bishop who has incited murder. Yet he has gone to great lengths to embarrass and undermine the Primate of our Church, which has as its great sin, "breaching the proper constraints of the bonds of affection" (per the Windsor Report) in ordaining a gay bishop who is not celibate.

Williams' willingness to pander to prejudice to keep the Anglican Communion intact and to remain in the good graces of Rome have damaged, perhaps irrevocably, his credibility as a moral leader. It has also compromised the witness of the Communion he leads, and given aid, comfort and momentum to the right wing organizations, such as the Bradley, Scaife and Ahmanson foundations, that are working to undermine our Church.


Surely, at some point, a few of our leaders will object to this behavior and insist that the archbishop hear them out. Surely they understand that in supporting the Anglican Communion we are complicit in the efforts to cripple our Church. Surely they understand the anxiety that the Archbishop is helping to perpetuate in this Church, how neatly that plays into the hands of those working against us, and how deeply it compromises our efforts to spread the Gospel.

Surely. Perhaps? Maybe? No?

Bishop Duncan is going to Tanzania

The Living Church is reporting that the Archbishop of Canterbury has invited Bishop Robert Duncan of Pittsburgh, moderator of the Anglican Communion Network, to attend a special session of the Primates Meeting to be held on Wednesday February 14 in Tanzania. Duncan has accepted.

Another Episcopal bishop, as yet unnamed, will also receive an invitation, the magazine reports.

This is a great public relations victory for Duncan and the Network, and the archbishop has to be aware of that.

I will be eager to see whether bishops other than Bishop Paul Marshall of Bethlehem will find a voice now, or whether the silent purple legion that leads us will remain mum.

(Mark Harris has a few thoughts on the subject.)

On what may be a related matter, the Church Times is reporting that Canon Kenneth Kearon, secretary general of the Anglican Communion, is at odds with the archbishop over his treatment of the Episcopal Church. The article notes that Kearon sent the archbishop recent criticisms voiced by Bishop Marshall.

“Sadly, it’s very accurate, and is almost the script for a very difficult meeting I had with him last Wednesday,” Kearon wrote in an email to Integrity founder Louie Crew of the Diocese of Newark. “We discussed absolute limits of appeasement, and also how a future direction might be identified.”

"More cryptically," the story continues "he ends his email: 'Advisers (and sadly I’m not one of them) are at the heart of this.' "

Virginia will elect a bishop tomorrow

The first ballot will be cast at 10:40 a. m. You can follow the voting on the diocesan Web site. You can read about the candidates here.

Bishop Chane on Washingtonpost.com

The Washington Post has asked members of its "On Faith" panel the following question:

As the presidential campaign begins to take shape, do you think it is appropriate and or important for the candidates to express their personal religious views and to use religious rhetoric? Why?

Bishop John Bryson Chane's response is currently featured in a link from the Post's homepage.

I am glad the Post has initiated the"On Faith" feature, but even in comparison to other online religion sites, the comments tend to stray off topic almost immediately as people ride their favorite hobby horses.

Nigerian anti-gay legislation in trouble?

The odious anti-gay legislation backed by Anglican Archbishop Peter Akinola of Nigeria appears to be in trouble. That is the upshot of a somewhat testy exchange between Outrage, a gay rights group in the UK, and Human Rights Watch. Read about it here.

The key paragraph in the HRW statement:

“While some action [on the bill] is still technically possible, the legislature is now winding down and readying for elections. They’re not likely to take up the bill unless something—such as an international campaign—- pushes them to. Moreover, after the elections there will no longer be a Christian President. This doesnn’t mean Nigeria’s leaders will be less homophobic, but it does mean that the influence of [Anglican] Archbishop Peter Akinola and the Christian Association of Nigeria, who have been the main forces pushing this bill, will be more or less moot.”

From the left coast

Update: CNN is doing a story on For the Bible Tells Me So tonight on Paula Zahn's show, which begins at 8 p. m. EST.

Richard, who keeps the Caught by the Light blog, is covering the Re-Visioning Anglicanism conference at the Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley. These two entries are worth reading.

Meanwhile, Susan Russell and the Admiral of Morality (who is, of course, not on the coast, but off the coast--although I don't know which one) have news and commentary on the Sundance Film Festival, which this year includes For the Bible Tells Me So, a documentary featuring Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

And from the middle of the country, Steve Waring offers an informative interview with the PB.

The loving gay family and the archbishop next door

That's the headline in this morning's Guardian on a story by Stephen Bates, which begins:

If anyone knows what it is like to be a gay adopter of a child, it's the Rev Martin Reynolds. He's gay, in a long-term partnership ... and an ordained clergyman of the Anglican church in Wales. And for the last 15 years, he has been fostering a boy with severe behavioural difficulties.
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, knows all about him too: he used to live next door when he was Archbishop of Wales. The boy played with his children. He knows that gay couples can provide a loving home for disadvantaged and at-risk children. Yet on Tuesday he wrote to the government demanding that religious adoption agencies should not have their consciences challenged by being required to consider gay couples as adopters.

Read it all.

And don't miss Andrew Brown's scathing essay on the gay adoption mess on the Guardian's blog, Comment is free. He writes:

"After all the years of child abuse scandals in the church, to see the Archbishop of Birmingham making his great stand for principle on the issue of gay adoption is to be reminded of Ronald Reagan redeeming the reputation of the American army after its defeat in Vietnam by invading Grenada. Are we to suppose that the Roman Catholic conscience, something even more flexible than Rowan Williams' backbone, could not work its way around these regulations if it wanted to?

None the less, I think the Catholic position in this is more honourable than that of the Church of England. Dr Sentamu's performance on the Today show yesterday morning was a breathtaking display of intellectual dishonesty. The most notable lie, I suppose, was his assertion that: "We are not wanting rights to discriminate." This is true only to the extent that the Church of England's own Children's Society does not in fact discriminate on grounds of sexual orientation, and will already now place children for adoption with gay couples. So Dr Sentamu is only struggling for the right of the Roman Catholic church to discriminate on his behalf. "

The article ends:

But in what sense can Dr Williams succeed? He is a man now for whom his allies despair, and whom his enemies may very well despise. He knows well, and has for years supported a gay couple - one of them a priest - who are raising a very difficult foster child. No one who knows him in person doubts his commitment to the wretched and outcast; no one who knows him through the media would ever suspect it. If you read his letter carefully, it might well be understood as a rebuke to the Roman Catholic church as much as to the government, and as an appeal for calm. But no one will read it like that. It is a piece of political theatre, in which he plays a part written by his enemies. In a fortnight's time, he will travel to Dar es Salaam, for a meeting of the heads of Anglican churches, many of whom would regard his friends as filthy, demonic perverts. Yet he has made it the central principle of his time in office not to upset such men. It is impossible not to pity him but difficult not to be shocked at his cowardice. "He has no friends," a gay friend of his said to me this week, "but we love him."

The Living Church on Bishop Chane's trip to Iran

Steve Waring of The Living Church has just posted a story on Bishop John Bryson Chane's recent trip to Iran. The article is here. The bishop's column on his trip, which ran in the January issue of Washington Window, is here.

The article begins:

Washington Bishop John B. Chane participated in three days of talks with senior Iranian religious and political officials in the capital of Tehran as guests of Muhammad Khatami, the country’s former president, in early December. Later he spoke about the visit in person with President George W. Bush.

Bishop Chane was accompanied on the Dec. 5-7 visit by the Rt. Rev. Pierre W. Whalon, Bishop in Charge of the Convocation of American Churches in Europe; the Rev. Canon John Peterson, canon for global justice and reconciliation at Washington National Cathedral; and Evan Anderson, deputy director, International Reconciliation and Peacekeeping, Center for Global Justice and Reconciliation at the Cathedral College.

Bishop Chane spoke with President Bush prior to the start of the Jan. 2 memorial service for former President Gerald Ford. He said President Bush was very pleased the visit had been so productive.

The priest at the church of Presidents

The Associated Press has moved a nice story about the relationship between the Rev. Luis Leon, the rector of St. John's Episcopal Church on Lafayette Square, and President George W. Bush.

The gay adoption issue in the UK

Update: See Stephen Bates's insightful blog entry on this issue.

I have avoided comment on the flap in the United Kingdom regarding the new Sexual Orientation Regulations recently passed by parliament, largely because I haven't followed the story closely enough to have an intelligent opinion. (I recommend this as a spiritual discipline.) But today I want to offer a few resources for those of you interested in following the thinking of the archbisops of Canterbury and York on this issue.

The archbishops yesterday wrote a letter to British Prime Minister Tony Blair which is available under the continue reading tab. In it, they back the Catholic Church's position that it should be exempt from a provision in the new law that makes it illegal for adoption agencies to refuse to place a child with a gay couple. Simon Sarmiento has full coverage at Thinking Anglicans.

Meanwhile, the Mad Priest "looks the other way and pretends he is not with them." And do have a look at the photo at the bottom of this entry.

I am not sure I buy the archbishops' argument. Suppose for the moment that the government had established the laws in question before the Catholic Church began operating adoption agencies. Would the Church's decision to open agencies mean that the laws had to be changed? I don't think so. The Church would be told that it doesn't have to involve itself in this ministry if complying with the laws of the land require it to compromise its beliefs. In this case, the fact that the Church is already in the adoption business certainly complicates matters from a pastoral perspective, but it doesn't bear on the principle.

That said, (he equivocated) I think you can also argue that the existence of adoption agencies that will place children with gay couples argues on behalf of a certain leeway for those that do not want to do so. But I don't know how you write "a certain leeway" into law.

For extra credit, give these questions some thought: Would the archbishops' line of reasoning make it possible for Catholic pharmacists to deny customers contraceptives? Would it allow, say, a nationwide chain of drugstores owned by a Catholic to refuse to stock condoms or provide contraceptives?

What do you make of the statement: "The rights of conscience cannot be made subject to legislation, however well meaning."

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Bishop Lee inhibits 21 priests

Bishop Peter Lee of Virginia has inhibited 21 priests who left the Episcopal Church and placed themselves under the authority of other provinces in the Anglican Communion. The diocese's news release is beneath the "continue reading" tab. As Andrew Gerns explains here, the bishop really had not other choice.

"No one is saying that these are bad people, or even that their orders are suddenly invalidated," Andrew writes. "The process means that they cannot function as priests in the Episcopal Church. That's all. Since they don't want to be priests in the Episcopal Church, this should neither be a problem nor a hardship for them."

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Not nice

The most annoying sentence of the week was written by Lee Siegel in an otherwise insightful, not to mention exhausive examination of the peculiar genius of Norman Mailer in Sunday's New York Times Book Review.

He writes:

"Early on, Mailer understood that in a democracy in which the most radically different types of people are thrown together, a harmonious encounter with “the other” is an American dream (e.g., the national obsession with the Relationship), the reality of which often becomes an American nightmare (e.g., popular culture’s obsession with crime). For the Brooklyn-raised, Jewish, middle-class Mailer, who once wrote about himself that there was “one personality he found absolutely insupportable — the nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn” — a perfect sense of the more extreme forms of otherness became artistic and intellectual mother’s milk.

No surprise, then, that Mailer’s previous novel, “The Gospel According to the Son,” in which he attempted to inhabit Jesus Christ, felt less like a creative vision than a head-butt against eternity. The material had a built-in obstruction to Mailer’s gift of sympathetic self-surrender: Jesus was a nice, middle-class Jewish boy from Nazareth. Now Mailer has returned to the right side, which is to say, the wrong side, of the tracks." (Italics mine.)

You needn't believe in the mystery of the Incarnation to find this characterization of Jesus preposterous. Jesus taught that the values of the Kingdom were the obverse of those of the world (Blessed are the poor. Woe to the rich.) He challenged the religious and imperial leaders of his day with a directness that got him killed, and he moved his followers so deeply that they continued to believe he was alive, even after his crucifixion.

Jesus was not "nice"; he was ferociously good.

It is hard to imagine that the Times would allow so uninformed a characterization to appear in its pages.

The IRD: doing what it does best

Brian Kaylor, keeper of the Christian communications blog For God's Sake Shut Up, points out that: "some 'Christian' organizations exist for no other reason than to attack other Christians. It is one thing to offer constructive criticism. But it is another thing to be so focused on attacking that one even twists the facts around just to make an attack. The latter seems to be the model that the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) follows."

The most recent case in point, Brian writes, are the "odd word games" contained in a recent press release from IRD Anglican Action Director Ralph Webb about the situation in Virginia.

One thing you won't learn from the press release is that Webb is a former vestry member at Truro, one of the secessionist churches in Virginia. Other members of the IRD staff--which once shared office space with the American Anglican Council--attend Truro, too. That is their right, of course. But it is incumbent upon on honest writer to disclose that sort of thing.

The Mad Priest's round-up

After our diocesan convention this weekend, we hope to get around to updating our blog roll. When we do, the Mad Priest will have an honored place. Not only does he do a good news round-up from time to time, but he's got a way with headlines. Have a look at Church gay stuff, and pay special attention to the reported death threats made against Davis Mac-Iyalla, the leader of the gay Christian organization Changing Attitudes' Nigerian branch.

About that boycott...

...apparently it is off.

Last month The Red Queen of the Anglican Communion, also known as Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda, wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury to inform him "that we cannot sit together with Katharine Jefferts Schori at the upcoming Primates Meeting in February."

The archbishop went ahead and invited Bishop Jefferts Schori to the meeting anyway. Now it appears that Orombi and his allies will show up after all. Father Jake has the details.

Revisionism or Revisioning?

Bishop Ted Eastman preached at St. George's Church in Arlington, Va., yesterday, taking as his text, Luke 4:14-21 and the recent op-ed article by the Rev. John Yates, former rector of The Falls Church, and former parishioner Os Guinness. You will find the sermon beneath the continue reading tab.

An excerpt:

Following the example of Jesus, Christians are called to the never-ending task of revisioning. We Episcopalians who have no intention of leaving the church are, to be sure, revisionists. And so are dissenting and departing Episcopalians. Each entity continually attempts to interpret and apply scriptural and creedal authority to concrete situations in the culture that envelopes us. Such revisioning may lead to the revising of old notions, assumptions or understandings. Or it may not. It is interesting that both conservative and liberal Episcopalians have been led in the recent past to revision and revise their attitudes toward divorce and remarriage, once so narrowly proscribed by scripture and canon law.

Faithful people can emerge from revisioning processes with different – sometimes conflicting – perceptions. That should be no surprise, given the wide variety of human experiences. Nor should these differences be a barrier between Christians, as long as we all respect the spiritual gifts that God has given to each one of us. More than that, our various revisionings can, by the grace of God, challenge us all and help us all to move into deeper realms of the truth.

In order for there to be mutuality in revisioning, however, there must be a spirit of generosity which is ready to grant that other faithful individuals do take the authority of the Bible seriously, read it comprehensively not selectively, and apply what is revealed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit to the situation at hand. Of course, if any entity believes that it alone possesses the truth, then meaningful conversation is no longer possible.

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You can save Friday Night Lights, or you can turn the page!

My favorite network TV show is facing fourth and long, says Ken Tucker of Entertainment Weekly.

Go figure. FNL may be the only show on television that treats religion authentically in the context of daily life. It is one of few willing to look issues of teen sexuality--and its consequences--in the eye, and it features perhaps the most realistically happy marriage on television. Yet it can't seem to find an audience.

Tucker writes:

In real life, Lights is the underdog series that a rah-rah cult audience and critics love, but one that can't find even a modest victory in the ratings. It consistently finished third in its original Tuesday-at-8 p.m. time period, and isn't doing much better in its new Wednesday-at-8 p.m. slot, still averaging around 6 million viewers. Indeed, the drama of whether NBC will commit to a second season of this gridiron soap opera is as awkward and tense as whether the wheelchair-bound former star quarterback Jason Street (Scott Porter) will break up with his devoted but conflicted cheerleader girlfriend Lyla Garrity (Minka Kelly). NBC Entertainment president Kevin Reilly professes love for the show but also cites ''the biggest disconnect'' he's ever experienced: ''People talk and write to me to say they love it, but not enough people watch. It's a sports show, but it's a relationship show; it's a soap, but it's got social issues. What makes it great makes it hard to market.''

Wednesdays at 8, Eastern. You don't have to like football to love the show. Give it a try.

"She's incredibly brave"

Thanks to Susan Russell for pointing out this profile of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori in the Stanford alumni magazine. An excerpt:

Jefferts Schori’s election “is very significant in what it says about the commitment and direction of the Episcopal Church,” says Harvard’s Ann D. Braude. The director of the women’s studies in religion program at Harvard Divinity School and author of Women and American Religion notes that 2006 was the 30th-anniversary year of the regular ordination of women in the Episcopal Church. “If you’re going to make a statement, she’s a great choice because she’s brilliant, she can rise to the occasion, and she’s incredibly brave. I think she will do an outstanding job in trying to mollify tensions with other Anglican churches.”

Virginia lawyer likes diocese's chances

A tip of the hat to John B. Chilton, keeper of the New Virginia Church Man blog for pointing out an exchange in the Richmond Times-Dispatch on the upcoming legal battle for control of the secessionist churches in the Diocese of Virginia.

In the lead-off piece, Jim Oakes, senior warden of Truro makes no real attempt to justify the parishes' claims that they have a right to leave and take their properties, preferring instead to recount Truro's understanding of the Episcopal Church's sins.

The second piece is different. William Etherington, a Virginia lawyer with actual knowledge about the sort of litigation that may soon commence writes:

"Litigation probably will result favorably for the diocese, most likely not by affirmative decision, but rather by a civil court's refusal to accept subject matter jurisdiction over the dispute. Historically, civil courts have deferred to ecclesiastical authorities when disputes arose within hierarchical churches."

and:

"The Virginia Supreme Court - in its 1985 decision in Reid v. Gholson, reaffirmed in Cha v. Korean Presbyterian Church of Washington in 2001 - acknowledged the hierarchical-congregational distinction, holding that hierarchical churches are guided by a body of internally developed canon or ecclesiastical law. The decisions of such churches under their internal laws may be promulgated as matters of faith and considered entirely independent of civil authority. Persons who become members of such churches accept their internal rules and decisions of their tribunals.

For that reason, the court held that civil courts must treat a decision of a governing body or internal tribunal of a hierarchical church as an ecclesiastical determination constitutionally immune from judicial review. This is the Doctrine of Church Autonomy, derived from the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which provides, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof . . . ." The second of these clauses, the Free Exercise Clause, effectively prohibits the government and its agencies - i.e., its courts - from interfering with the internal operations and decisions of a hierarchical church. It also calls into question the constitutionality of the trustee ownership scheme of Title 57 of the Virginia Code.

The fountainhead of the Doctrine of Church Autonomy is Watson v. Jones, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1871. Watson established that property disputes within hierarchical churches should be decided not by testing which faction departed from traditional doctrine but by a rule of deference: Whenever questions of discipline, or faith, or ecclesiastical rule, custom, or law have been decided by the highest of these churches' judicatories to which the matter has been carried, the civil courts must accept such decisions as final and binding on them. More important, Watson recognized that the dispute there at issue - although sounding like a property dispute - was really about which group would select pastoral leaders to inculcate the faith among parishioners. Essentially, it was a request for a civil court to side with one theological faction over another. Watson reasoned that because civil courts are "incompetent judges of matters of faith, discipline, and doctrine," they ought to decline jurisdiction over such cases.

This is akin to the situation faced by the secessionist parishes. They seek to leave the Episcopal Church and its Diocese of Virginia to realign themselves with a diocese or archdiocese of another member of the greater Anglican Communion. This is a dispute that goes beyond property; it is one involving fundamental governance and matters of faith and doctrine. If civil courts decline to assume jurisdiction over this dispute (whether characterized as a property dispute or otherwise), the decision will then be left to the judicatories of the Episcopal Church, and the dispute will be resolved in favor of the diocese, which decision could then be enforced by the civil courts.

However, should the courts take jurisdiction, applying a neutral principles analysis, the result likely will be the same, since the secessionist parishes had, until December, accepted the canons and rules of the diocese and the Episcopal Church that are clear: Property is held for the benefit of the diocese and church, from which secessionist parishes cannot now unilaterally opt out. Their rejection of the canons of the diocese and church can be but prospective, not retroactive."

Desmond Tutu on the Communion's peculiar priorities

NAIROBI – Archbishop Desmond Tutu on Friday urged the African Anglican church to concentrate on the the continent's grim problems rather than on the row over gay clergy, and said persecuting gays was akin to racism.

Reuters has the story, which includes these quotes:

'I am deeply disturbed that in the face of some of the most horrendous problems facing Africa, we concentrate on 'what do I do in bed with whom',' the South African Nobel Laureate Tutu told a news conference in Nairobi.

'For one to penalise someone for their sexual orientation is the same as penalising someone for something they can do nothing about, like ethnicity or race. I cannot imagine persecuting a minority group which is already being persecuted.'

Thought for the weekend

Courtesy of the Spirituality readings section of our Web site:

You ought to know that a person with good will can never lose God. Rather, it sometimes seems to his feelings that he loses him, and often he thinks that God has gone far away. What ought you to do then? Just what you did when you felt the greatest consolation; learn to do the same when you are in the greatest sorrow, and under all circumstances behave as you did then. There is no advice so good as to find God where one has left him; do so now, when you cannot find him, as you were doing when you had him; and in that way you will find him. But a good will never loses or seeks in vain for God. Many people say: “We have a good will,” but they do not have God’s will. They want to have their will and they want to teach our Lord that he should be doing this and that. That is not a good will. We ought to seek from God what is his very dearest will.

From the writings of Meister Eckhart, quoted in Wisdom of the Cloister: A Monastic Reader, edited by John Skinner (Image Books, 1999).

Pastor Dan on the situation in Virginia

Pastor Dan at Street Prophets weighs in on the situation in the Diocese of Virginia:

It seems strange for a dyed-in-the-wool congregationalist such as myself to find himself arguing in favor of an episcopal polity. But the important thing here is that the episcopal system is the ground rules these people established, and they ought to live by them. I can certainly understand the dissatisfaction older members have with a denomination that they perceive to have left them, even sympathize with their predicament. I have no beef with them. But the pinheads who egg these things on (and trust me, there's a pinhead holding the cloaks of those taking potshots at the denomination - 80-somethings don't leave church without some help), now that's a different story. There's a special ring in hell reserved for people who would do this to a community for the sake of ideological purity. They may not have punched their grandmother in the gut, but they've done the next best thing. Swine. May God have mercy on them.

The PB backs Bishop Lee

From Episcopal News Service

Presiding Bishop's statement following property decisions in Virginia

The Episcopal Church, in consultation with the Diocese of Virginia, regrets the recent votes by members of some congregations in Virginia to leave this Church. We wish to be clear, however, that while individuals have the right and privilege to depart or return at any time, congregations do not. Congregations exist because they are in communion with the bishop of a diocese, through recognition by diocesan governing bodies (diocesan synods, councils, or conventions). Congregations cannot unilaterally disestablish themselves or remove themselves from a diocese. In addition, by canon law, property of all sorts held by parishes is held and must be used for the mission of the Episcopal Church through diocesan bishops and governing bodies. As a Church, we cannot abrogate our interest in such property, as it is a fiduciary and moral duty to preserve such property for generations to come and the ministries to be served both now and in the future.

The recent decisions by some members of congregations in Virginia to leave the Episcopal Church and ally with the Anglican Church of Nigeria have no cognizance in our polity. Ancient precedent (from as early as the fourth century) in the Church requires bishops to respect diocesan boundaries, and to refrain from crossing into or acting officially in dioceses other than their own. As a Church we cannot and will not work to subvert that ancient precedent by facilitating the establishment of congregations which are purportedly responsible to bishops in other parts of the Anglican Communion within the diocesan boundaries of the Episcopal Church.

The Episcopal Church continues to seek reconciliation with those who have decided to leave this Church, and reminds all parties that our doors are open to any who wish to return.
Together with the Diocese of Virginia we seek to be clear about who we are as Episcopalians, and to continue to reach out in healing to this broken world. The overwhelming majority of the more than 7,600 congregations of the Episcopal Church are engaged in doing exactly that.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Pittsburgh: a small, but potentially significant development

The judge in the case involving Calvary Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Pittsburgh, (background here) has ruled in favor of the church's motion for expedited discovery, and ordered the diocese to comply by January 31.

Our December 21 entry on this case said:

Calvary has requested an expedited discovery process to allow it to receive "equitable relief in advance of an international meeting of the Primates of the Anglican Communion scheduled for February 14-17, 2007 in Tanzania. On information and belief ... [that] Bishop Duncan and Primates of foreign countries are planning to use the occasion of the meeting... to promote Bishop Duncan's organiation and to implement actions directed at impairing the ability of Plaintiffs, TEC and TEC's constituents to maintain or recover their lawful interests in the Property."

Calvary is particularly interested in the November meeting in Falls Church, Va., attended by Duncan, various conservative Episcopal bishops and several African Primates. Citing Bishop John-David Schofield's presentation to his deaneries in the Diocese of San Joaquin, they argue that Duncan and others agreed at that meeting to "submit to the authority of certain foreign Primates."

This ENS story quotes the Rev. Rick Matters, who has opposed San Joaquin's moves toward session, as saying that Schofield told the deaneries that he signed a "pledge of allegiance" to six Anglican Communion bishops, including Nigerian Primate Peter Akinola and Archbishop Gregory Venables of the Southern Cone.

If the use of the phrase "pledge of allegiance" can be authenticated, it could be important.

So maybe we will find something out about this pledge, and maybe we won't.

You ARE a marketer. Deal with it.

My thanks to the Rev. Jennifer McKenzie of The Reverend Mother blog for alerting me to this insightful posting over at Headrush. The author is a software developer, but what he is talking about can easily be applied to the issue of evangelism.

To wit:

If we believe in something, and we want others to share what we know can be a fun/meaningful experience, whether it's getting involved in our open source project, or joining our cause, or--yes--buying our book or software--we need to get past our "go kill yourself now" thing. If framing it with a new word/phrase helps, perhaps that's a better approach than trying to give the word "marketing" a massive makeover.

Remember -- when people are passionate about something, and in a state of flow--and you have contributed to that by helping users/members learn and grow and kick ass--these are some of the happiest moments in their lives. Trying to promote more of that is something we should feel wonderful about, not guilty.

In praise of Peter Lee

The most poignant part of Bishop Peter Lee's letter to his diocese (posted in full in the item just below this one) gives readers a sense of the lengths he went to, and the personal cost he paid, to try to keep his diocese together.

It reads:

"For years diocesan leadership has worked to accommodate the views of the leadership of these churches. We have resisted attempts to deny them seat, voice and vote at the Annual Council when they stopped funding the budget of the Diocese. They have enjoyed access to our diocesan-managed medical and dental benefits. They have enjoyed other diocesan resources like grant funding for church planting, mission work and congregational development, Shrine Mont and Roslyn. I have met dozens of times with the leadership of these churches and with their counsel in an effort to find common ground on matters of theology. Three times I invited the retired Archbishop of Canterbury Lord Carey to conduct confirmations and receptions when my episcopal presence was either specifically refused or would have been a source of tension for the membership. I endured being told that the parents of confirmands would not want me to lay hands on their children at confirmation and I have received other personal attacks including death wishes in letters, reports and public statements.

I have tried to find a way forward in our dispute over property that would keep us from having to resort to civil courts. No longer am I convinced that such an outcome is possible, nor do I believe that such a move at this time is dishonorable. Rather, I believe as does the leadership of our Diocese and of our Church, that the actions taken to secure our property are consistent with our mission and with our fiduciary and moral obligations to the Church of our ancestors, to the church we serve today, and to the church of those who will follow us. "

Bishop Lee is both a sensitive pastor and a skillful diplomat. He deserved better than this.

Breaking news from the Diocese of Virginia

The Executive Board of the Diocese of Virginia has released a statement published below. In addition, a letter to members of the diocese from Bishop Peter Lee can be found beneath the "continue reading" tab. Meanwhile, a moron with a can of spray paint defaced a door at Truro Church over the weekend.

The media release begins here:

Today, January 18, 2007, the Executive Board of the Diocese of Virginia took a step forward in preserving the mission and ministry of the Diocese and the Episcopal Church for current and future generations of Episcopalians and adopted a resolution concerning the property of 11 Episcopal Churches where a majority of members -- including the vestry and clergy -- have left The Episcopal Church but have not relinquished Church property and have continued to occupy the churches and use the property owned by the Diocese.

Specifically, the Executive Board declared the property of those churches – real and personal – to be abandoned in accordance with the Canons of the Diocese.

“All real and personal property held by or for the benefit of any Church or Mission within this Diocese is held in trust for The Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia.” (Canon 15.1)

“No part of the real property of a Church, except abandoned property, shall be alienated, sold, exchanged, encumbered or otherwise transferred for any purpose without the consent of the congregation … [and] the Bishop, acting with the advice and consent of the Standing Committee of the Diocese.” (Canon 15.2)

Having declared the property abandoned for the purposes for which it is set aside, namely the mission of the Episcopal Church and the Diocese of Virginia, the Executive Board is required to protect the property, according to the Canons:

“[W]henever any property, real or personal, formerly owned or used by any congregation of the Episcopal Church in the Diocese of Virginia for any purpose for which religious congregations are authorized to hold property under the provisions of the Code of Virginia or any amendment thereof, has ceased to be so occupied or used by such congregation, so that the same may be regarded as abandoned property by the Executive Board, which shall have the authority to declare such property abandoned and shall have the authority to take charge and custody thereof, the Executive Board shall take such steps as may be necessary to transfer the property to the Bishop…” (Canon 15.3)

The unanimous decision by the Executive Board also authorizes the Bishop to take such steps as may be necessary to recover or secure such real and personal property.

In addition, the Standing Committee met today for its regular monthly meeting and took up the issue of the status of the clergy attached to these congregations. Following today’s meeting the Standing Committee will communicate its determination to the Bishop according to the Canons.

The 11 churches where property has been declared abandoned are:
Church of the Redeemer, Chantilly
Church of the Apostles, Fairfax
Church of the Epiphany, Herndon
Church of Our Saviour, Oatlands
Church of the Word, Gainesville
Potomac Falls Church, Sterling
St. Margaret’s, Woodbridge
St. Paul’s, Haymarket
St. Stephen’s, Heathsville
Truro, Fairfax
The Falls Church, Falls Church

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Bonnie Anderson sets a few things straight

ENS has a story on a letter that Bonnie Anderson, president of the Episcopal Church's House of Deputies, has written to the Archbishop of Canterbury and his Panel of Reference, regarding its lightly researched recommendations regarding women's ordination in the Episcopal Church. You can find the letter beneath the "continue reading" tab.

The letter, dated January 12, appeared earlier today on the Stand Firm Web site, raising the question of how Matt Kennedy and company obtained it. I am not anti-leak. Few journalists are. And I don't begrudge SF its scoop. But journalists are equally interested in knowing where a leak came from. Whose purpose does the leak serve?

One question to be answered here is whether the leak came from the Panel itself. If so, provinces that correspond with the panel can henceforth expect that private correspondence might very well become public. Which, if the province is sensible, will mean that it will have not correspondence with the panel at all.

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NARTH revisits the slavery issue

The National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) is a coalition of psychologists who believe it's possible to "cure" homosexuality, a position rejected by the American Psychological Association and the American Medical Association. The organization, which is a favorite of the Anglican right, finds itself in the midst of controversy at the moment. A member of its Science Advisory Commitee published an essay on the organization's Web site arguing that Africans sold into slavery in the United States were in many instances better off than they had been at home.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has the story.

Senator Danforth speaks up

Former Senator John Danforth gives U. S. News and World Report his take on the recent events in the Episcopal Church.

In the current conflict within the Anglican Communion, Episcopalians are sometimes portrayed by those who opposed the Church's stance on women's rights and gay rights as captives of the cultural left. Here we have a former Republican senator, key supporter of Clarence Thomas, and former member of the Bush administration defending that Church against radicals to his right. Danforth is at home in the Episcopal Church. As was Gerald Ford. As is the first President Bush, who recently gave the keynote speech at the kick-off dinner for one of our parishes' capitol campaigns. As is the current President Bush, who invited one of our rectors to give the invocation at his second inauguration.

These men are nobody’s liberals. And neither Linda Lingle, the Republican governor of Hawaii, nor Virginia Congressman Frank R. Wolf will ever be mistaken for a left winger. Yet both have returned campaign contributions from Howard Ahmanson, sugar daddy of the Anglican right, rather than being publicly associated with his views on homosexuality, creationism and global warming.

There is a party in our current conflict that is both captive and tool of extremists and ideologues, but it is the group now affiliating itself with Archbishop Peter Akinola and his newly-forming Church of the Human Rights Violation.

But it's not because she's a woman

The Rev. Penelope Duckworth, writing in the San Jose Mercury News effectively dismisses the arguments made by the Rev. John Yates and Os Guinness of the Falls Church in their recent fact-free piece in The Washington Post.

She concludes: It is notable that the authors did not leave after the approval and consecration of the Rt. Rev. Gene Robinson (the first openly gay bishop) in 2003. The schism occurred in 2006 and followed the election of the first female presiding bishop. Up until then, those who opposed women's leadership were cushioned by allowances which permitted male episcopal authority if requested. With the consecration of The Most Reverend Katharine Jefferts Schori, there was suddenly no man who had more authority, and so sexism was flushed from its cover. Like many schismatics, the authors claim to represent the true church. But, in fact, they are objecting to decisions made democratically by duly elected representatives. In this ``Week of Prayer for Christian Unity,'' Christian churches all over the world will remember that Jesus prayed for unity. So did Gerald Ford and, no doubt, George Washington. It is still a longing of the faithful.

Did the Panel of Reference do its homework?

Last week, the Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference released its recommendations on a matter brought before it by the Diocese of Fort Worth regarding the issue of women’s ordination. The diocese does not recognize the validity of women’s ordination to the priesthood, whereas the Church’s canons insist that no one be barred from testing a priestly vocation based exclusively on their sex.

To deal with the delicate situation in which it found itself, the Diocese of Fort Worth devised what has come to be known as the Dallas Plan, under which women in the diocese who wanted to explore a priestly vocation could do so in the neighboring Diocese of Dallas.

One essential question before the Panel was whether the Dallas Plan was working. The Panel answered in the affirmative (Point 8, page 4): Some women seeking ordination have sought guidance from the Bishop, and it is our understanding that they have been directed to the Bishop of Dallas. As a result some have become ordinands. Thus the Dallas Plan has cared positively for those who do not share the majority diocesan view.

And later, at Point 17 (a), pages 5 and 6: The Panel of Reference commends to all parties the Dallas Plan which appears to have worked satisfactorily for ten years, and recommends that its procedures continue …The Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop and the other Primates of the Anglican Communion should publicly commend the adequacy of the Dallas Plan.

On what basis did the Panel form its judgments on the Dallas Plan?

“I understand that the Panel invited submissions from the diocese and from the PB's office, and came to their conclusions based upon the submissions on both sides,” wrote Canon Gregory Cameron of the Anglican Communion Office in an email relayed through a spokesman.

But did the Panel speak to any women in Fort Worth who explored a priestly vocation either through the Dallas Plan?

“We would have to meet for a longer discussion with Panel members to ascertain more information,” Cameron wrote.

Katie Sherrod, perhaps the most prominent supporter of women’s ordination in the diocese, thinks she already knows the answer. “As far as I have been able to determine, after speaking with all the best-known supporters of women's ordination here, no one from the [panel] spoke to anyone here,” she wrote in an email. “No one in the Fort Worth Via Media, or the Fort Worth chapter of the Episcopal Women's Caucus was contacted by the [panel.] None of the very few clergy here who support the ordination of women were contacted. I asked many other laypeople who have publicly expressed support for women's ordination, and none of them were contacted.”

Barbara G. Click, past president of the Fort Worth Via Media group, confirmed that the panel did not respond to a letter written to the Archbishop of Canterbury objecting to the diocese’s petition.

Did the panel do enough research to conclude that the Dallas Plan is working so well that it should be commended by “the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Presiding Bishop and the other Primates”?

Nothing will be lost

There are few credibly irenic voices in the Episcopal online world. Tobias Haller's is one. Read his poem for the week of Christian Unity. You'll feel better and sleep easier.

It begins:

Beloved sisters and brothers, let me tell you a mystery.
Nothing will be lost. All will be restored.
In the economy of salvation, nothing goes to waste.
Our God is not a God of acceptable losses.
Nothing God has made deserves God’s hatred.
Everything that is was created in love.
Each atom, every blade of grass,
and most of all each human soul,
reposes in the assurance of divine, unalterable love.
Nothing will be lost. All will be restored.

The Church of Kenya comes to Tennessee

Among the handful of positive developments spurred by the current crisis in the Anglican Communion is the decision by churches in what was once the Jim Crow South to place themselves under the authority of African bishops. Here is the latest from Memphis. While I don't care for bishops from other countries claiming Episcopal churches as their own, the willingness of these communities to accept black leadership strikes me as a sign of progress.

More from Nigera

Here's more from the recent meeting of Nigerian bishops. If I am reading it right they are a) intelligently attempting to dampen expectations of a decisive, or even signficant result from the upcoming Primates Meeting in February, and b) not-so-intelligently attempting to turn the next Lambeth Conference into a legislative gathering by fiat. They won't get anything like the support they need for that gambit.

Bishop Marshall on Archbishop Williams

Bishop Paul Marshall of the Diocese of Bethlehem has written a letter that I did not think was in the public domain, but as I have now seen it on the House of Bishop and Deputies List and had a call about it from Ruth Gledhill, the religion reporter for The Times of London, I am gong to pass it along beneath the continue reading tab.

I offer no preview except to say that the bishop articulates what many of us have been feeling about the Archbishop of Canterbury and his behavior toward our Church for some time. (Hat tip to the Mad Priest, who published it first.)

Read more »

Where hope meets hip-hop

The Washington Post spends some time with the "positive rap" artists who will be performing a tribute to Martin Luther King, Jr., at Washington National Cathedral today.

Only thing I did was wrong was stayin' in the wilderness too long

Thanks to Susan Russell and The Admiral of Morality for recommending in recent days that we honor the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., by re-reading his Letter from Birmingham Jail. Look, too, at this temporizing statement from Birmingham religious leaders, including the Episcopal bishop of Alabama, who opposed the way King pursued his goals.

Those of you in the DC area, might want to celebrate Dr. King's birthday at Washington National Cathedral, which is hosting a speech by Sister Helen Prejean, author of Dead Man Walking at 2 p. m., followed by a concert by hip-hop artist Bomani Arma.

The Wall Street Journal looks at pending anti-gay legislation in Nigeria

The Nigerian Village Square Web site has reporter Mark Schoof's story, which ran in the Journal last week. It begins:

LAGOS, Nigeria -- Augustus Olakunle Macaulay founded the Bible university that trained his son in theology. He founded the evangelical ministry that ordained his son as a minister. And he is president of Nigeria's Association of Christian Theologians, which counts his son as a member.

But now Prof. Macaulay supports a proposed law that could criminalize his son's new Christian church and put him behind bars. That's because his son, the Rev. Rowland Jide Macaulay, has founded House of Rainbow, a church that caters to Nigeria's gay men and lesbians -- a first for Africa's most populous country.

The relationship between Prof. Macaulay and his son mirrors some of the conflicting forces buffeting homosexuals in Nigeria. Gay men and lesbians are becoming more visible, even as their society, which is hostile to homosexuality, threatens to become still less tolerant of them.

The on-going hypocrisy of GetReligion

Have a look at this entry over on GetReligion. It is a critique of The Washington Post's recent coverage of a press conference held by the Institute for Religion and Democracy.

The IRD receives significant contributions from California billionaire Howard "Stony" Ahmanson, and Ahmanson's wife, Roberta, sits on the IRD's board. Ahmanson also funds GetReligion.

This obvious conflict of interest is not mentioned in the posting. It is never mentioned in GetReligion's coverage of mainline Protestant churches, despite the fact that Ahmanson contributes heavily to the IRD's efforts to destabilize those churches.

This particular article is written by the same writer who carelessly smeared Bishops Katharine Jefferts Schori and Gene Robinson in a previous piece.

Mollie Ziegler, your conscience is calling. It misses you.

A sermon on "the problem"

Tobias Haller is featuring one of his old sermons today.

Here's an excerpt, but do read it all

For conservatives in particular sex is almost always “the problem” — for at the same time they want to talk about what is “natural” they also want to preserve a strong distinction between humanity and the rest of nature. Thus, as archconservative Archbishop Akinola of Nigeria said concerning homosexuality just a few months ago, “Even animals don’t do such things.” Obviously the arrogant Archbishop is ignorant of the well-documented same-sex behavior among scores of animal species. But then, he and those who take his point of view aren’t interested in nature and whatever truth it might reveal to us; for they are quite content, upon being shown that animals do engage in such behavior, to turn around and accuse gays and lesbians of being “inhuman” for acting like animals — so I suppose in their view we really are neither fish nor fowl — nor human! — and shouldn’t even exist. As the wife of one of the bishops at Lambeth put it, that would be the final solution to the whole problem — “We don’t have homosexuals in Africa,” she said, “because we kill them.”

Though they might reject such genocidal homophobia, even more moderate conservatives display a similarly perverse exaltation of natural law that takes no account of real nature. For instance, as Roman Catholic moral theologians put it, Human sex is distinguished from animal sex in that only human sex leads to the birth of human beings. This surely qualifies for the theological “Duh” award of the decade. And while those who advance this triviality as if it were a helpful insight do so to preserve the dignity of human personhood — which of course only exists in human persons — in the end they are left with a dehumanized biological determinism, in which the primary good about a married couple is their fertility. This reasoning ignores the facts that not all heterosexual sex (even in the most loving of marriages) leads to the generation of new human beings — nor do we grant marriage annulments at menopause; nor are all heterosexual relationships loving; and some of those that are least loving may be the most fertile. It is not our capacity to breed — even to breed humans — that makes us human.

When one thus eliminates fertility and the creation of new human beings from the discussion, the conservative argument shifts in an enthusiastic appeal to a surmised “complementarity.” This circular argument limits the only legitimate human “other” for appropriately human relationships solely on the basis of the so-called complementarity of the sexes. In doing so it again reduces all human beings, male and female, to the status of mere prongs and holes, as if we were nothing more than the loose ends of biological extension cords, plugs and sockets designed to pass along some kind of live current, without regard to what that current is or is for. One conservative writer waxes eloquent on the imagined “fit” of male and female, which he says is like the fit of hand and glove: of course, notice who the glove is, and who the hand; women sure must get tired of being portrayed as accessories! So this supposedly noble effort to exalt human nature also ultimately undercuts human dignity.

These arguments also betray a kind of genealogical fixation— as if what most makes us human is our birth, rather than our life, as if the beginning of human life is all that counts, and not the human life lived to its human end; as if Genesis were the end of the story rather than the beginning. And it is this story which I wish to revisit and comment upon today.

I do this, in part on the basis of an appeal to our animal past, and the claims of nature, but more on the basis of the Gospel, and its supernatural claims upon our human present for our human future.

For what the Gospel shows us is the astonishing truth that love is unnatural. I’ll say it again: love is unnatural. Put another way, love doesn’t come naturally: perhaps that sounds less threatening! Love has to be urged and commanded. You have to work at it. Left to our own devices, our animal natures, the drive for life we share with all living things, we would seek only our own self-interest, only our own wants and needs, or at best the wants and needs of our species, as if human life were only meant to produce more human lives; as if we were nothing more than organic copy machines driven by our DNA to produce more DNA-producers, in some ways no better than a particularly large and noisy virus infecting the surface of the globe.

The Palm Beach Post on the Anglican crisis

Steve Gushee of the Palm Beach Post writes of Archbishop Peter Akinola's efforts to export his prejudices to the United States:

The great danger in all this — apart from the disgraceful treatment of homosexuals — is the growing power of bigots to use the Bible to condemn those who are different. Christians have long done that against Jews, blacks and women.

They use their religion "as a fig leaf to cover their naked prejudice," said the Rev. Peter Gomes, preacher to Harvard University who is a black, Republican, Baptist, gay minister.

His simple presence would make Bishop Akinola and his American minions apoplectic. His words condemn them.

Nigeria draws a line

Hat tip to Simon for pointing me toward these two documents from the Church of Nigeria.

The latter contains this passage:

"We stand by our earlier endorsement of the recommendations of the Council of Anglican Provinces in Africa (CAPA) document: "The Road to Lambeth" and maintain the posture that we cannot claim to share fellowship with member-Provinces that denigrate the authority of Scripture on the life of the Church. Our participation in this worldwide fellowship is contingent on genuine repentance by those who have chosen to walk away, for two cannot walk together except they are in agreement. Christian unity must be anchored on Biblical truth.

The Bishops are delighted that the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) - an outreach initiative of the Church of Nigeria is taking giant strides. Worthy of special mention also is the success story of the Church of Nigeria Missionary Society outreaches to other parts of world. (emphasis mine) We therefore reaffirm our commitment to the Great Commission, which is the primary reason for the election of 19 new Bishops for newly created missionary dioceses in different parts of the country."

I find this interesting because the number of "member-Provinces" covered by this ultimatum is not specified. It is entirely open ended, also because the creation of a missionary society to work outside of Nigeria clearly indicates that Church no longer intends to honor provincial boundaries.

I think the Nigerians are persuaded that the best way to spread the Gospel as they understand it is to operate outside the strictures of the Anglican Communion. In this I can't fault them, as I think the Episcopal Church might be best served by doing the same thing. But if the argument is about which members of the Communion have committed the greater offenses against the "bonds of affection," well, I think that argument is over.

Repositioning

Today has been a heavy news day, so I am reposting Mark Harris' essay, The Vocation of the Episcopal Church so that it continues to ride at the top of the blog. The pdf is here.

It begins like so: The Episcopal Church has struggled to affirm its place in the organized structures of the Anglican Communion. The need to continue that struggle is now in question.

The continued participation of The Episcopal Church in the instrumentalities of the Anglican Communion is not essential to our continued faithfulness as a Christian body, nor is it the basis for our fellowship with other Churches in the Anglican Communion. We must not confuse the gift of fellowship for the vocation to which we are called.

And ends, like so: The restrictive and punitive efforts of the various “instruments,” commissions and committees of the Anglican Communion are contrary to our understanding of our vocation as a Church and may indeed make our continued engagement with Anglican Communion structures as they now stand increasingly difficult, if not impossible. The emergence of instruments for a magisterium and a patriarchy in the Anglican Communion are contrary to our understandings of our vocation and of union in its “truest and deepest” sense.

It is our intention to continue to be in communion with as many of the churches of the Anglican Communion as will have us. We will seek other companions not of this flock as well.

We will not confuse that continued fellowship with the possibility of a break in relations with one or the other of the various bodies that constitute the structures of the Anglican Communion – vis: the Primates Meeting, The Lambeth Conference, the Anglican Consultative Council, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

We believe there is no need for any of the breaks in the bonds of affection that tie us together as a fellowship. These bonds are of fellowship, not of some exercising lordship over others. We have only one Lord, Jesus Christ, all others are with us companions on the Way.

The desire by some in the Communion to be an ecclesial kingdom like other kingdoms –that is to say to become a patriarchal international church – is misplaced. We desire neither Rome nor Geneva – neither an international hierarchy nor a state / city church. There is no need for an Anglican equivalent to the Patriarch of Constantinople or Rome. We are protestant, catholic, and free.

We will seek companions in Christ where they may be found, and in all things we will seek companionship with Christ who has found us.

As for those who wish to disenfranchise or shun us, “we must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our separation,” and hold them, as we hold the rest of the Christian churches of the world, in our prayers and with the hope of more gracious times when God will grant us greater, deeper and truer union.

Slow Fade

The American Anglican Council continues its slow fade from the scene. First its executive director left the AAC and joined the schismatic Anglican Mission in America. Now its president has joined the schismatics aligned with Peter Akinola of Nigeria. However, he plans to remain in office.

Here is the first pargaph of the press release:

"The Rev. Canon David C. Anderson, President and CEO of the American Anglican Council, recently announced that he has transferred his canonical residency from The Episcopal Church (TEC) of the United States to the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA), the U.S. missionary branch of the Anglican Church of Nigeria. The switch, which places Canon Anderson under the oversight of Bishop Martyn Minns, was made Nov. 1, 2006."

The release says that the AAC's work will continue. But its credibility is shot. For years its leaders denied that it was a schismatic organization. These denials persisted even after its plans for replacing the Episcopal Church in the Anglican Communion were unmasked with the leaking of the infamous Chapman Memo. Now its leadership has, in fact, joined schismatic organizations.

I think they've been, um, pulling our leg, all along, and that we have tolerated them at our peril, but even if one takes a more charitable view, the AAC's schismatic intentions can no longer be denied.

Presiding Bishop responds to President Bush's speech on Iraq

[ENS] Noting that "the road to peace goes through Jerusalem, not Baghdad," Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has responded to President George Bush's January 10 speech on Iraq and related U.S. military activity. The complete text of Jefferts Schori's statement follows:

While I welcome President Bush's recognition that the situation in Iraq is unacceptable, I am deeply saddened by his failure to address peacemaking in the context of the whole region. It is a mistake to view Iraq only through the prism of terrorism. Others have pointed out that the road to peace goes through Jerusalem, not Baghdad. In order to bring peace to the Middle East, not just Iraq, and the land we Christians call holy, there must be a comprehensive regional plan that culminates in a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians. Our country must engage diplomatically not only the U.N., European Union and Russia, but all the nations in the Middle East, including Iran and Syria. Diplomacy, built on a foundation of mutual respect and interest among people of good will, not more troops, can bring an end to this tragic conflict. We continue to pray for our soldiers and their families, as well as for all the people of the Middle East, seeking God's wisdom in the search for peace with justice, for shalom and salaam.

The Most Rev. Katharine Jefferts Schori
Presiding Bishop and Primate
The Episcopal Church

Revisiting the Question: What others are saying

While I want to keep our attention focused on Mark Harris' article The Vocation of the Episcopal Church, (which you can also find here in a form you can print out and pass around) I also want to give you a sense of what other writers are saying about the relationship between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

Our friend, the Rev. Bill Carroll, former faculty member at Sewanee, now a rector in the Diocese of Southern Ohio added the following in a comment over at Mark's blog, Preludium:

"We should be seeking to de-centralize and de-colonialize the Anglican Communion. A more democratic and participatory process is called for, in which ALL voices are heard. Only a covenant that supports full provincial autonomy and liberty of conscience is a reasonable proposal for the Anglican future. Like the WR, the covenant design process is the last gasp of the British Empire. It may well be, given the overall make up of the committee, that no reasonable proposal is forthcoming. It will have to be amended beyond recognition by the provinces before they can adopt it by their own synods and conventions. It may well be that the Anglican Communion has outlived its purpose and that similar divisions will come to the fore in many other provinces.

"It is time to pull the veil off the combination of Anglo-Catholic fantasy and institutional self-preservation that leads anyone to think that these kind of documents are a good ideal. Our future should be defined by mission, not conciliarist dreams."

Lionel Deimel has an essay in which he writes: Let me be perfectly clear: We have no hope of finding ourselves in a satisfactory Anglican Communion as long as we are unwilling to walk away from the Anglican Communion as it presently is.

And Marshall Scott, thoughtful keeper of Episcopal Chaplain at the Bedside blog has written an essay worth reading in its entirety, and executed so smoothly it is difficult to pull out an extract, so read it all.

Revisting The Question in a big way

Mark Harris of Preludium has advanced the conversation about the relationship between the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion in a major very big way this morning.

The entry at his blog, Preludium is entitled "Enough it is time to move on," and it begins:

Enough: it is time to move on.

Several commentators have suggested that the time has come to say, “Enough!” It is a time of growing frustration by some of us with an emerging effort at governance by persons and bodies that have no mandate from any people of God to do so. The organized structures of the Anglican Communion, also known as the “focus of unity” and the “instruments of communion” have more and more acted as if they are the voices of a magisterium or a patriarchy, having powers beyond that of recommendation.

As some who read this blog understand, I am deeply committed to the bonds of affection that constitute the Anglican Communion. But in these last days I have increasingly come to believe that these bonds have almost nothing to do with the struggles both from within and from without to mandate from afar solutions to "our" problems. This is not the Anglican Communion to which I have given much of my ministry and energy. This is a perversion of fellowship into some other form of relationship. ... (edited to remove flattering reference to this blog)

With some fear and trepidation I offer the following as a statement of some of the concerns that others and I have. What value there is in this I do not know. We shall see.

This is a long piece, for which I am tempted to apologize. But instead I ask your patience. It is, after all, grist for the mill.

We will all be changed.

What follows could well be read as the first draft of a declaration of ecclesiastic independence. Go read it, and then come back, or stay there, to talk about it. Or print out this pdf and pass it around.

On the record

An extensive interview of Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori by Laura Lynn Brown of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette is lurking beneath the continue reading tab.

Here is one important section:

"Brown: I want to ask you about a couple of other things you've said in interviews. One of those was in the 10 questions in TIME magazine about the small box that people put God in. Could you elaborate a little bit on your take on "Jesus is the way, the truth and the life" [a paraphrase of John 14:16]?

Bishop Jefferts Schori: I certainly don't disagree with that statement that Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. But the way it's used is as a truth serum, or a touchstone: If you cannot repeat this statement, then you're not a faithful Christian or person of faith. I think Jesus as way - that's certainly what it means to be on a spiritual journey. It means to be in search of relationship with God. We understand Jesus as truth in the sense of being the wholeness of human expression. What does it mean to be wholly and fully and completely a human being? Jesus as life, again, an example of abundant life. We understand him as bringer of abundant life but also as exemplar. What does it mean to be both fully human and fully divine? Here we have the evidence in human form. So I'm impatient with the narrow understanding, but certainly welcoming of the broader understanding.

Brown: What about the rest of that statement -

Bishop Jefferts Schori: The small box?

Brown: Well, the rest of the verse, that no one comes to the Father except by the son.

Bishop Jefferts Schori: Again in its narrow construction, it tends to eliminate other possibilities. In its broader construction, yes, human beings come to relationship with God largely through their experience of holiness in other human beings. Through seeing God at work in other people's lives. In that sense, yes, I will affirm that statement. But not in the narrow sense, that people can only come to relationship with God through consciously believing in Jesus."

The Presiding Bishop's critics have argued, bizarrely, in my view, that her views on salvation place her outside the Christian mainsteam. I have argued that they are pretty much the views of the Roman Catholic Church, which, last time I checked, was pretty squarely within the Christian mainsteam.

Here critics charges have been parrotted by The Red Queen, aka Archbishop Henry Orombi of Uganda, who has decreed that words mean what he says they mean, nothing more, nothing less. I still don't think these assertions stand scrutiny. And neither does the Anglican Scotist. (Who is much smarter than I am.)

Thanks to Bible Belt Blogger, Frank Lockwood, religion editor of the Democrat-Gazette.

Read more »

"A Bishop in Tehran"

From the blog of Bruce Feiler, author of Walking the Bible, Abraham, Where God was Born and other books:

As someone who has been to Iran twice in the last decade, including a long trip chronicled in Where God Was Born, I believe that a lot of the hype of surrounding Iran in the media these days bears an all-to-comfortable connection to the alarm that was hyped about Iraq a number of years ago, with the aid of a vicious dictator with a track record of gassing his own people. The voice of pause are too few, and too rare. But they seem to correspond to nearly anyone who's visited the country.

John Chane is the Bishop of Washington and a friend I made through the interfaith work I began in 2002 with the publication of Abraham. Long before that book was featured on the cover of TIME and became what it became, he offered his clout to an Abraham Salon I was trying to organize in WDC. Since then we've done a number of events together and I find him to be a gracious and passionate advocate of moderation and humanity in religion.

Read it all.

African Anglicans to snub pro-gay rights US bishop

Oooh. Snubbing. Cool. And we can like write some nasty stuff on her Facebook! And then, you could, like, tell her that this boy likes her, and then when she's like "Really?" you could be like "No! Ha!"

She is so not making the cheer team if I have anything to say about it.

Company at the children's table?

The Church of Ireland has a new Primate and it will be interesting to learn whether Archbishop Henry Orombi, who has announced that he will not "sit" with our Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori at the upcoming Primates' meeting in Tanzania.

Speaking on Radio Ulster in 2003, Bishop Alan Harper said: "if a relationship between homosexual males is creative of love as well as being permanent and lifelong I don’t think that I am able to say that it is intrinsically disordered. What I am very much concerned about is the problem of promiscuity which is a totally different issue. I’m not entering now into the question of whether or not a homosexual lifestyle as we see it is intrinsically more promiscuous than what we call a straight lifestyle. But I am concerned about faithfulness." More here.

So that's Ireland. And then there are Rowan Williams and John Sentamu, the archbishop of York, who will also be attending the meeting. They represent a Church that (sensibly) allows its clergy to enter into civil partnerships but expects them to remain celibate, although it (sensibly) makes no effort to police those partnerships.

But, at least so far, Bishop Jefferts Shori, is the only one whose invitation was in danger of being withheld, and the only one with whom Orombi has said he will not sit.

But it's not because she's a woman. Remember that. It's because, she's, um, tall. No wait, it is because she buttons her shirts on the wrong side. No wait, it's because, because, because...

Revisiting the Question III

Lionel Deimel is also Revisitng the Question, and he's got an intriguing essay about the upcoming Primates' meeting in Tanzania.

My favorite bit deals with Rowan Williams' boorish behavior toward our Presiding Bishop, Katharine Jefferts Schori .

He writes:

"The Presiding Bishop should privately and politely ask the Archbishop of Canterbury for an apology for suggesting that she is present only by his sufferance. He had no right to exclude her, and to have suggested otherwise was an affront to her and to the church that she represents."

A flurry of attention for "Following the Money"

Following the Money, our two-part series on donors and activists on the Anglican right is mentioned twice today in local papers. Alan Cooperman of The Washington Post cites it in his story on a skirmish over funding sources between the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and the Institute on Religion and Democracy. And Nicholas F. Benton of the Falls Church paper refers to it in passing in a column on President Bush's new plans for Iraq.

One comment on the Post's story: I have no problem with the NCCC and the IRD raising money from whomever they wish to advance their agendas in the political arena. The primary difference between the two organizations is that the NCCC does not take money from outside sources to destabilize denominations who disagree with its policies. The IRD does. Indeed, that is its primary reason for existing--to destroy the mainline Protestant churches with whom its donors are in political disagreement. It admitted as much in a 2000 fundraising letter for its Reforming America 's Churches Project" telling donors it wanted to "restructure the permanent governing structure" of "theologically flawed" Protestant denominations.

For permanent governing structures read democratically elected leadership, and you get a sense of what is going on here. Certain conservative foundations are attempting to limit freedom of religion under the guise of purifying it. The IRD portrays itself as a champion of religious liberty, but religious liberty in this country has few greater foes.

Archbishop Ndungane is gracious, even if Archbishop Williams is not

Compare and contrast Rowan Williams' decison "not to withhold" an invitation to the Primates' meeting in Tanzania next month with Archbishop Njongonkulu Ndungane's statement below.

Which man shows more promise as a moral leader. Discuss.

MEDIA RELEASE

Thursday 11th January 2007.

Comment from Anglican Archbishop of Southern Africa, Njongonkulu Ndungane, on the reported threat by some African Bishops that they will not attend the forthcoming Primates’ meeting in Tanzania in February because of the presence of Katharine Jefferts Schori, new Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the USA.

______________________________________________

Africa is on fire with conflict in places like Darfur and Somalia. Added to this is the life and death struggle against HIV and AIDS, malaria, famine and unimaginable poverty, all of which are creating a continent of orphans. There is also climate change which threatens to bring untold devastation to our continent.

What we need is a united front to bring the needs of the people of Africa to centre stage at every international forum.

Reports of a boycott by some Anglican Archbishops of the Primates meeting in Tanzania because of the presence of a woman, who has been legitimately elected by the church in her country, is like fiddling while Rome burns. Most importantly it goes against God’s fundamental call for unity and reconciliation.

I hope it is not the case that Bishop Jefferts Schori’s presence is objectionable to some because she is a woman. Women have always been the backbone of Africa and, as an African, I am honoured to welcome her to our great continent.

Revisiting "The Question": Stewardship

Returning to the question of whether continued membership in the Anglican Communion is in the best interests of the Episcopal Church. Let's examine the issue from the standpoint of stewardship.

This year the Episcopal Church will contribute more than $750,000 to maintain the Anglican Consultative Council and the Communion Office in London. The Episcopal Church contribution accounts for roughly 30 percent of the office's budget. Over the next three years our total contribution will be $2.35 million.

Is this money well spent? Several church leaders, including our former presiding bishop, argued in the affirmative during debate over this issue in the run-up to our General Convention in 2006. Their arguments are relayed in this story from ENS.

My question is whether we should continue to be so generous in our support of a body that a) requested that we not exercise our voting rights at its last meeting; b) permitted the Akinola-led opposition to use our withdrawal to push through legislation that would not have passed had we participated; c) has become increasingly curial in its functions as the Archbishop of Canterbury has pursued his plan for an Anglican Covenant and d) houses the odious Panel of Reference, created at the behest of foreign Primates eager to meddle in our affairs on behalf of those who oppose the full inclusion of gays, lesbians and women in the ministries of our Church?

I will grant that I have phrased this question in a loaded way. But our relationship to the Archbishop of Canterbury seems to be deteriorating rapidly--witness his arm's length treatment of our Presiding Bishop, his unwillingness to request civility from Primates who have attacked her, and his unwillingness to pay a public visit to any of our churches.

The relationship with the Communion office does not seem to be much better. If one looks at the roster of the Covenant Design Committee released yesterday, and, even worse at the roster of those asked to comment on papers presented to the committee, it is clear that the deck is being stacked against those who favor many of the positions our Church has arrived at through its democratic processes in recent years. (The lists are here.)

If one reads through the Panel of Reference’s recent attempt to pressure our Church into rewriting its canons on women’s ordination, the threat to our self-governance is evident, as is the threat to the progress we have made toward the full inclusion of all of the baptized in the ministries of our Church.

I understand that there are people out there who want to destroy the Episcopal Church, and what it stands for. I am increasingly coming to believe that there are others who would enable our destruction. What I need someone to explain to me is why we are subsidizing their efforts.

Tobias S. Haller on Scripture and the Anglican Deformation

Tobias Haller has written an essay on interpeting Scripture that should be read by all and sundry. Not surprisingly, it is relevant to our current situation. Two excerpts:

The primary flaw in Cranmer’s theory of the self-explaining Scripture — and the primary reason scholars such as Hooker added an authoritative role for the church — lies in his two-fold failure adequately to understand the nature of revelation itself, and to give proper dignity to those who receive it. For revelation is always revelation to — God does not speak (except at the moment of creation itself) into the void: rather the Word that goes forth “accomplishes that which God has purposed.” (Isa 55:11) And the Word of God is efficacious precisely because it is “read, marked, learned, and inwardly digested” — and the “body” that does this is the church, only beginning with the individual Christian but finding its true locus in the larger community, as the Word cooperates with human flesh in its coming into activity.

This is no novel post-modernist observation dependent on communication theory, but lies at the heart of the Scripture’s own testimony to itself, as well as the method of the church up until Cranmer’s essentially hopeless effort to recover a “pure” method of biblical interpretation, in which the plain meaning of Scripture would be obvious to each, as if protected from abuse by the meddlesome all: the church.

and

The need on the part of some with a particular agenda to broaden the scope of Leviticus’ admitted condemnation of male-male sexuality among Jews in the Holy Land (as the leading scholar in the field of Leviticus, Jacob Milgrom, accurately describes it) into a timeless moral requirement binding forever on all humanity (including, apparently, women, significantly missing from the Levitical text) — and the need to summon up dominical support for this commandment — is deforming rather than reforming the Anglican Communion today.

Rather than looking for guidance to the moral principle laid out by Jesus — loving ones neighbor as oneself, and giving oneself for the welfare of others — cultic regulations and selected sexual offenses of ancient Israel are elevated to a status unwarranted by either moral or ethical principle, while others are hastily explained away. This is not the way forward.

The Rev. David Simmons on the fantasies of Yates and Guinness

From his blog Ayia Iluvatar:

Who are these revisionists?
As I read articles from the "Extreme Right" in the church these days, I often struck by the dichotomy between what they say the Episcopal Church is like, and the Episcopal Church as I have experienced it. The claim usually runs that the Episcopal Church has abandoned all of the underpinnings of orthodox Christianity, including belief in the Bible as the Word of God, beliefs in the doctrines of the Trinity, Resurrection, Salvation through Jesus, etc. Quite often (as in American Anglican Council videos) the specter of James Pike is brought up as somebody who started the "slide" and then usually John Shelby Spong is cited as one who continues it.

My confusion is that I didn't know who James Pike was until I started to study the history of Episcopal splinter groups (a couple of years after seminary) and no one I personally know of in the church thinks of JS Spong as a central theologian. When I was in seminary in 2001, the popular theologians were Karl Rahner, NT Wright, Mark McIntosh and John Zizioulas - hardly a line-up of radical revisionists! The priests I know, especially the ones under 50, are more likely to be interested in Radical Orthodoxy than radical deconstruction. I have met very few Episcopalians, liberal or conservative, who are interested in the Pike/Spong type of non-theistic theology. Most people I know, no matter where they sit on the current issues that face the church, would be happy to subscribe to the Chicago-Lambeth Quadrilateral - the best general statement of traditional, expansive Anglican orthodoxy.

Read it all.

The Mad Priest on the Covenant Design Group

The Mad Priest writes from England on the covenant design group and the covenant in general :

My friends, this is the end of the Anglican Church. And when I say "Anglican Church" I mean the church that began when the first group of natives from what is now called the British Isles, met together, in the early days of Christianity, to break bread in remembrance of our Lord, Jesus Christ and which then went on to find fresh expressions of itself throughout the world.

Why is it the end?

Because the Grand Tufti is selling our birthright. He is illegally imposing upon the people who employ him an illegal covenant. We are children of the Spirit of God, we are not bound by laws unless, individually, we choose to be. For goodness sake, I doubt if two people in my congregation agree with each other about everything, and we should rejoice in that.

This so called covenant will be a piece of misguided diplomacy that will alienate the intelligent and drive people from our churches in droves. At least, for a start, the self-appointed powers that be will have to be seen to enforce conformity of thought and this will lead to the loss, especially in places like England, of many good, hardworking, loving, Christian priests and church employees. It will encourage dishonesty and duplicity among both clergy and laity. It will destroy education in the faith as nobody will feel able to ask questions. It will lead to the splitting of the Anglican Church into two factions. One will be reabsorbed into the Italian Church, initially as an uniate church. The other will become an evangelical church, still referring to themselves as Anglican but as far from real Anglicanism in their beliefs as Taoism is.

Make no mistake - this is nothing but A COUP D'ETAT. Our Church has been taken over by "the generals."

I am an Anglican. I am not a friggin' Italian or a Bible bashing puritan. I do not give the Grand Tufti my permission for a bunch of career men to decide, in a few hours, what I am supposed to believe. This is my church, it has been from the day I was born - the Tufti's not even English.

Who on earth came up with the stupid idea of putting a Welshman in charge of something in the first place? Tony Blair probably - it stinks just like one of his cock-ups.

The best we can now hope for is the American Church will reject the covenant and go it alone. As the last vestige of inclusive Christianity they will grow stronger and will eventually be in a position to re-evangelise the world and one day the church of this land will return to this land.

Servants of the servants of God? My arse. They are a bunch of power grabbing politicians and wimps boxing above their weight.

Heaven help us all.

The rest is here.

Three cheers for Cal and Tony

Hall of Fame balloting results are in.

New from the Diocese of Virginia

Thirty-day Standstill Agreement Not Renewed

The Episcopal Diocese of Virginia announced today that it will not renew the 30 day standstill agreement with the clergy and members of congregations who voted to leave the Episcopal Church to associate with the Anglican Church of Nigeria. The terms of the agreement were set to automatically renew unless one party notified the others seven days prior to the expiration of the agreement. The Diocese notified these congregations today of its decision not to renew the agreement, which is set to expire on January 17.

The leadership of the Diocese of Virginia – Bishop Peter James Lee, the Standing Committee and the Executive Board – will meet after the expiration of the standstill agreement to determine their next course of action. Specifically, the Standing Committee must decide the status of the clergy of the departed congregations. In turn, the Executive Board must consider whether the property of these Episcopal churches has been abandoned.

The standstill remains in effect until January 17 and the Diocese will continue to honor its terms and take no legal or canonical actions prior to its expiration.

Bishop Lee and other leaders of the Diocese continue to consider the full range of pastoral responsibilities to those faithful Episcopalians in the congregations who chose to remain loyal to the Diocese and The Episcopal Church.

Revisiting "The Question"

It's time to ponder once again whether membership in the Anglican Communion is actually worth it. Today I'm wondering whether it is an asset in evangelism.

As you may remember, on Christmas Day, The New York Times carried an article in which Archbishop Peter Akinola, supporter of repressive anti-gay legislation, described how he recoiled the only time he knowingly shook a gay person's hand. Today the Telegraph of London carries a story headlined Anglicans 'can reject women priests.'

Readers following these stories closely might understand that the Episcopal Church favors the full inclusion of gays and lesbians in the ministries of the Church, that it has been ordaining women to the priesthood for three decades, and that within the Anglican Communion it is on the outs with the folks who want to limit ordained leadership to heterosexual men. But most readers aren't following closely. What they see is that we keep company with precisely the sort of folks who have kept/scared many of them away from church in the first place.

Readers following the story very, very closely are another problem altogether because what they see is a Church that, at least at the moment, does not seem to have the courage to articulate the convictions it once held for fear of having to pay a price for doing so. Witness the fact that no one in a position of authority in our Church or Communion has called Akinola out for what even the crudest individual would realize was outrageous behavior.

When you consider that a significant percentage of Episcopalians (The figures I have seen quoted range from 40 to 60 percent) have joined the Church as adults, when they were perfectly capable of judging the theological direction in which our church was heading, you have to wonder whether our current public profile isn't diminishing us in the eyes of the very people to who our witness for Christ had been most attractive.

Yet, this timidity in articulating our beliefs in the public debate does seem to be part of the price we are paying to help the Archbishop of Canterbury to keep the Communion together. So my question is, is it worth it? Are we killing our Church to save the Communion?

Covenant Design Committe Announced

From Anglican Communion News Service

The Archbishop of Canterbury today announced the members of the Covenant Design Group that he has appointed in response to a request of the Joint Standing Committee of the Primates’ Meeting and of the Anglican Consultative Council.

The group will meet under the chairmanship of the Primate of the West Indies, Archbishop Drexel Gomez, and includes experts in canon law, the nature and mission of of the church and ecumenical relations from around the Communion. In addition to a small core group, the Archbishop is also appointing a wider circle of corresponding members, who will be assisting the Group’s work.

The Group will hold its first meeting in Nassau, the Bahamas, in mid-January 2007, and present an interim report to the Primates Meeting and Joint Standing Committee when they meet in February in Tanzania.

The members are listed below:


The Most Revd Drexel Gomez, West Indies
The Revd Victor Atta-Baffoe, West Africa
The Most Revd Dr John Chew, South East Asia
Ms Sriyanganie Fernando, Ceylon
The Revd Dr Kathy Grieb, USA
The Rt Revd Santosh Marray, Indian Ocean
The Most Revd John Neill, Ireland
The Revd Canon Andrew Norman, Archbishop of Canterbury’s Representative
Chancellor Rubie Nottage, West Indies, Consultant
The Revd Dr Ephraim Radner, USA
Ms Nomfundo Walaza, Southern Africa
The Revd Canon Gregory Cameron, Anglican Communion Office, Secretary

I don't know much about many of these folks. Most of the ones I know something about make me uncomfortable. The two primates on the panel, Gomez and Chew are committed to forcing our Church to betray its understanding of the Gospel or leave the Communion. So is Ephraim Radner. This is another one of a drip-drip-drip of developments that makes one wonder if the Anglican Communion is worth belonging to.

The Panel of Reference's statement on women's ordination

The Anglican Commuinion's panel of reference has released a statement which you can find covered here, here and here.

The Living Church puts its this way: The Archbishop of Canterbury’s Panel of Reference has responded favorably to an appeal by the Diocese of Forth Worth which opposes an amendment to the Canons and Constitution of the General Convention making access to ordination mandatory for women in all dioceses.

ENS puts it this way: The Anglican Communion's Panel of Reference has recommended that the Archbishop of Canterbury discuss with the Presiding Bishop the possibility of clarifying what it called the ambiguous wording of a 1997 amendment to the Episcopal Church's ordination canon "so as to ensure that the permissive nature of the ordination of women is maintained in any diocese."

"At the same time the apparent intention of the amendment to defend the interests of women candidates for postulancy, candidacy and ordination in a diocese that does not ordain women would be underscored," the panel's recommendation said.

The Fort-Worth Star-Telegram, which seems not to understand that the Panel makes recommendations, not rulings, put it this way: Women who want to be ordained as Episcopal priests may not be denied the chance by any diocese or church, but no diocese or parish will be forced to accept a woman priest, the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth was told Monday in an opinion issued by an international panel of the Anglican Communion.

I am not deeply versed on this issue, but I am told by people who are that the Panel's ruling hinges on its misundertanding of our 1997 canon. The panel believes it is ambiguous. My correspondents tell me it is not. The canon gives latitude to a bishop who does not want to be personally involved in ordaining women. It does not give any diocese the right to reject female candidates, or to keep parishes from calling female clergy. As I say, I am not an expert here, but I haven't seen this point of view expressed in any of the commentary yet.

Celebrate MLK Day at the National Cathedral

A celebration of youth non-violence will be held at Washington National Cathedral on Monday January 15, 2-4 p. m. to commemorate the life and ministry of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sister Helen Prejean, author of the bestseller Dead Man Walking: An Eyewitness Account of the Death Penalty in the United States will speak and sign her book.

Recording artist Bomani Armah will lead an innovative presentation using hip-hop music and other elements of popular culture as a tool for positive change. Chris Bacon, subject of the award-winning documentary,
Blue Line: Destination Christylez will appear with Armah.

The event will also feature the Urban Nation H.I.P.-H.O.P. Choir of Washington. Focusing on the acronym H.I.P.-H.O.P. (Hope, Integrity, Power—Helping Our People), the choir’s mission is to channel the creative and artistic energies of a targeted group of youth into a dynamic, structured ensemble that will foster excellence
in all facets of their lives.

The event is free. For more information visit www.nationalcathedral.org/mlk

Too much news to digest

The Communion's Panel of Reference has issued a report on the complaint of the Diocese of Forth Worth. I am just reading through it. It is here.

On writing letters

Many of you have called and emailed asking how to respond to the op-ed from the Falls Church in today's Washington Post.

Here is the Post's policy on Letters to the Editor:

"Letters Policy
Letters must be exclusive to The Washington Post, and must include the writer's home address and home and business telephone numbers. Because of space limitations, those published are subject to abridgment. Although we are unable to acknowledge those letters we cannot publish, we appreciate the interest and value the views of those who take the time to send us their comments.

Letters via E-Mail
The e-mail address is letters@washpost.com. Do not send attachments; they will not be read."

You can also contribute to an online discussion here.

Yates and Guinness argue by assertion

I have enjoyed watching people who have decided to place themselves under the authority of Archbishop Peter Akinola, a man who freely admits that he recoiled the only time he knowingly touched a gay person, that their departure from the Church isn't primarily about homosexuality. Having aligned themselves with a man who proudly articulates his bigotry, the leaders of the Truro and the Falls Church now labor to direct the public's attention away from Akinola and toward the allegedly "real reasons" that they left the Episcopal Church.

Their latest attempt at diversion appears today on the op-ed page of The Washington Post. The piece is notabley notable because it demonstrates the Episcopal and Anglican right's propensity for confusing assertion with evidence.

In their introduction, the Rev. John Yates and Os Guinness write that: "Fundamental to a liberal view of freedom is the right of a person or group to define themselves, to speak for themselves and to not be dehumanized by the definitions and distortions of others." They then proceed to distort or oversimplify the position of the Episcopal Church and the intellectual history of the Christian faith in every succeeding paragraph.

To read Yates and Guinness, one would think that the Church has never changed its mind on a controversial moral issue, and that various Christian bodies have never disagreed with one another. One might also think that Roman and Orthodox Catholics are not actually Christians because their Church do not embrace the sola scriptura (scripture only) standard articulated by Yates and Guinness.

This attempt to read the Episcopal Church out of the mainstream of Christianity succeeds primarily in exposing the authors' own pinched intolerance and their willingness to caricature the beliefs of people whom they do not know in order to justify their own questionable behavior.

In other words, it is about what we have come to expect from them.

From the Charleston Post and Courier

The Charleston Post and Courier has a major package today on the controversy in our Church. I haven't had a chance to read it yet.

The PB on evangelism

Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has a timely column on evangelism in this month's issue of Episcopal Life.

An excerpt:

Part of our evangelical task is making our worshiping communities welcoming in a deep, human, relational sense. The gospel is about radical hospitality, after all, and that is what we are meant to model.

The other side of this challenge is how we might speak good news in language and forms that people uneducated in Christianity can understand and welcome. If our language engenders fear, it is likely to drive people away. If it welcomes and invites, the possibility can be quite different.

This may not be seen in many places in the Episcopal Church, but consider your own reaction to “If you don’t believe the way we do, you’re going to hell.” Not only does hell not have much reality for the unchurched, there is an arrogance in that approach that many find repellent.

There are more subtle forms of that message, however, that are rampant in this church. We use language that is understandable only by insiders – and not just the arcane terms of our liturgy and polity (and those words themselves won’t be understood by many!).

There is an underlying message in many faith communities that says, “The way we worship (or hold Sunday school or run our vestry meetings or …) is the only right way.” And the implication that is heard is, “There is no welcome here for you if you can’t do it our way.” There is an aspect of that message that is quite un-Anglican, if we really want to live up to our value of comprehensiveness.

Headlines you could write every day

Archbishop fears Church schism in gay row

So says the headline in the Telegraph today. The story upon which this headline rests is a solid one, containing some interesting, if unsurprising quotes from the Most. Rev. Dr. Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury (formal diction for the formal mood I am in this morning.) But it isn't the story that interests me, so much as the journalistic conventions that, through no one's fault, seem to work against the non-Anglican public getting a clear understanding of what is happening within the Episcopal Church and the Anglican Communion.

The headline of the Telegraph story, of necessity, suggests that something new has happened; that the Archbishop's fear of a schism is either new or that it has intensified. Neither of these things is true. Yet the headline doesn't really misrepresent the story. And it certainly attracts more readers than would a headline that reads: Archbishop repeats fears of schism in documentary.

A reader who isn't following every twist and turn in our saga gets the impression that somehow the situation has gotten worse. But this isn't the case.

We've got a more damaging version of this phenomena going on in the U. S. It's a basic journalistic convention to explain in any ongoing story why the development being written about on that particular day is worth reading. In the Anglican saga, this has given rise to what I refer to as the "gap widening" paragraph. Since at least 2003, very capable reporters have been filing stories saying that the gap between liberals and conservatives in the Episcopal Church is "widening." Sometimes this graph is accurate, but sometimes it isn't. Sometimes the gap is widening; sometimes the reporter has just become aware of how wide the gap has always been; and sometimes the reporter just need some shorthand to justify the coverage of what might be a marginal development.

When I was a journalist, I wrote these sorts of paragraphs many times myself, so I am not just confessing someone else'e sins. In any ongong story, journalists tend to settle on a master narrative and gague the significance of incremental developments in the context of that narrative.

The problem with gap widening graph is that, repeated on a regular basis, it exaggerates and possibly intensifies the phenomenon it seeks to describe. There are some 7,200 Episcopal parishes in this country. If we lost one average sized parish per day for the next two years, we'd lose a little over 10 percent of our membership. Obviously that wouldn't be good. But now imagine that a "gap widening" paragraph appears in the newspaper every time one of those parishes departs. After two years, what would be greater-- our losses, or the public's perception of our losses?

Unless our Church is adroit in managing a expeditious settlement with those who wish to leave we will continue to be a victim of journalistic convention. And, to change the subject, until we are willing to make an asset of the fact that we are paying a price for following the Gospel as we understand it, we will continue to pay that price, without reaping any of the potential benefits.

Designer kids?

Rob Stein's story in today's Washington Post revives allof my old misgivings about donor sperm, donor eggs and the fertility industry in general. Parenthood, it seems to me, is an in for a dime in for a million kind of deal. If you've decided you are ready, you need to be ready for anything.

Stein quotes Mark A. Rothstein, a bioethicist at the University of Louisville in Kentucky as saying: "We're increasingly treating children like commodities. It's like you're ordering a computer from Dell: You give them the specs, and they put it in the mail. I don't think we should consider mail-order computers and other products the same way we consider children."

I fnd myself in general agreement. I also wonder what effect the fertility industry has on the adoption rate.

For your weekend perusal

If you are in search of a thought-provoking chuckle, check out Geez magazine.

"Geez has set up camp in the outback of the spiritual commons," it's Web site says. "A bustling spot for the over-churched, out-churched, un-churched and maybe even the un-churchable. For wannabe contemplatives, front-line world-changers and restless cranks. A place where the moon shines quiet, instinct runs mythic and belief rides a bike (or at least sits on the couch entertaining the possibility)."

They won me over with their Make Affluence History campaign, which urges low-income families to sponsor privileged children in the hopes of showing them a less-cluttered more grounded way of life.

Diocesan Convention

Our diocesan convention meets on the last weekend of this month at Washington National Cathedral. You can learn more about convention business in this booklet. I can save some visitors to the blog a little time by disclosing that there are no resolutions dealing with human sexuality. Not a single one. Believe me, I am as surprised as you are.

Bishop Chane on Beliefnet

Bishop John Bryson Chane's column on his recent trip to Iran has been picked up by "God's Politics," Jim Wallis' new blog at Beliefnet.

Advancing my agenda

I have not accomplished as much as I had hoped during the Democrats first 100 hours in power. Still, two loads of laundry is two loads of laundry.

Five good minutes

Alexander Baumgarten, international policy analyst for the Episcopal Church's Office of Government Relations, talks aabout the Church's commitment to the Millennium Development Goals in this video.

Raise the minimum wage

From the Episcopal Public Policy Network:

New Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid have pledged to bring the Fair Minimum Wage Act to the floor for a vote in the first 100 hours of the 110th Congress. This will be an important FIRST step toward a fair living wage in the United States.

Your support is needed to ensure a "clean minimum wage" bill. A "clean" bill means without amendments. Click here to send a fax to your Senators and Representative.

For ten long years, Congress has raised its own pay but failed to pass an increase in the Federal Minimum Wage - Today a full-time worker earning the $5.15 minimum wage makes only $10,700 annually – that is $6,000 below the poverty line. Due to inflation, today's $5.15 minimum wage is lower in value than the minimum wage in 1950.

Your voice is critical. Contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to support the Fair Minimum Wage Act to raise the Federal Minimum Wage "without amendments." A vote in the House is expected as early as January 10, with a Senate vote in the following weeks. To fax a letter to your Senators and Representatives, CLICK HERE.

(An interesting posting on this issue onthe blog of The Washington Monthly.)

Ain't Misbehavin'

Came across this ditty on the House of Bishops and Deputies list (of all places) today. It is a lyric by Garrison Keillor. Sung to the tune of Ain't Misbehavin'.

I'm slow to anger, don't covet or lust.
No sins of pride except sometimes I really must.
Episcopalian, saving my love for you.

The theology's easy, the liturgy too.
Just stand up and kneel down and say what the others do.
Episcopalian, saving my love for you.

I bless myself with a flick of the wrist.
You'd never know I was raised fundamentalist.
Episcopalian, saving my love for you.

There's white folks and black, and gay and morose,
Some male Anglo Saxons but we watch them pretty close.
Episcopalian, saving my love for you.

The Windsor Bishops and the Chamber of Secrets

Updated at last paragraph

The Windsor Bishops, defined as, well, pretty much whoever shows up at these meetings that Bishop Don Wimberly of the Diocese of Texas is holding at the Camp Allen retreat center have returned for a sequel according to this story from Episcopal News Service.

On the one hand, I think that any group of bishops that invities primates from other churches in the Communion to attend meetings such as this one without inviting our Presiding Bishop is being disloyal. On the other hand, if Bishop Bruce MacPherson of Western Louisiana, who is now chair of the PB's council of advice is again in attendance, maybe this isn't as bad as it looks.

Interesting that Archbishop Drexel Gomez has once again come to the United States to meet with Episcopal Bishops and still not paid a call on the PB. I think enduring a series of public slights----such as the language in the Archbishop of Canterbury's recent letter about deciding "not to withhold" Bishop Jefferts Schori's invitation to the Primates meeting in February--is part of the price for keeping the conversation in the Communion going.

Father Jake casts a jaundiced eye on this gathering. As does Mark Harris. Tobias Haller wonders where the Archbishop of Canterbury got the idea that Episcopal bishops "represent" their dioceses. Simon Sarmiento has more details.

The singular nature of Truro and the Falls Church

The singular nature of Truro and the Falls Church is well illustrated in a story in today's Washington Post. One point of interest: many of the folks in these congregations are not Episcopalians. I don't have a problem with that, but it seems to me that it relieves us of the responsibility of listening to these folks when they start lecturing us about what it means to be truly Anglican.

Prominent priest under investigation

According to the Gazette newspaper of Colorado Springs, the Rev. Donald Armstrong, III, executive director of the Anglican Communion Institute, is under investigation for possibly misusing his parish's funds.

Armstrong, rector for Grace and St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, "was placed on 90-day paid administrative leave last week by Bishop Robert O’Neill, head of the Episcopal Diocese of Colorado. He’ll be unable to step on church property or wear his habit during that time, and 'will not exercise any functions or pastoral responsibilities as a priest,' according to a diocesan release."

The ACI is a conservative Episcopal/Anglican think tank with close ties to Bishop Robert Duncan's Anglican Communion Network.

Why congreagtions grow

Mary Francis Schjonberg of ENS has this story:

A plan to recruit and incorporate newcomers, clarity of mission and ministry, contemporary worship, involvement of children in worship, geographic location, a website and the absence of conflict are key factors in why some congregations in America are growing, according to the latest national survey of U.S. faith communities.
The survey, sponsored by the Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership (CCSP), found that wanting to grow is not enough. Congregations that grow must plan for growth.

"Congregations that developed a plan to recruit members in the last year were much more likely to grow than congregations that had not," according to a report on the survey written by C. Kirk Hadaway, Director of Research at the Episcopal Church Center in New York.

The survey findings are available in "FACTs on Growth." The data was taken from the Faith Communities Today 2005 (FACT2005) survey of 884 randomly sampled congregations of all faith traditions in the United States. The survey updates results from a survey taken in 2000, and is the latest in CCSP's series of trend-tracking national surveys of U.S. congregations.

Hadaway told ENS that the survey showed that the average so-called "mainline" congregation was less likely to grow than non-denominational, evangelical congregations. More surprising to many people, Hadaway said, is that Roman Catholic congregations are not growing in a way comparable to the increased number of Roman Catholics in the United States.

The report notes that "when all congregations are combined, there is very little relationship between growth and theological orientation. In fact, the proportion growing is highest on the two end points: predominantly conservative congregations and liberal congregations (growth rates of 38% and 39%, respectively)."

"More important than theological orientation is the religious character of the congregation and clarity of mission and purpose," the report continues. "Growing churches are clear about why they exist and about what they are to be doing."

An analysis devoted to Episcopal parishes is here.

Promoting the Millennium Development Goals

(ENS) The first in a 10-part series of Sunday bulletin inserts on the United Nations' eight Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and ways in which the Episcopal Church is committed to their realization is suggested for use this coming Sunday, January 7.

The series has installments for the Sundays from January 7 to March 11.

The inserts are available in English and in Spanish.

The chicken head and me

Since several of you have asked: No, I am not the Jim Naughton who Tom Brokaw referred to yesterday in his eulogy of President Gerald Ford. I have never worn a chicken's head to get the attention of the President of the United States. That's another guy. I refer to him as the real Jim Naughton, and people who know us both refer to him (at least in my presence) as James the elder. He left the New York Times, having covered the White House just before I arrived at the Times to cover hockey. We are buddies. But we aren't the same guy.

President Ford on schism and the Great Commandment

An excerpt from the Rev. Robert Certain's sermon at today's funeral for former President Gerald R. Ford.:

Gerald Ford was a Christian man, a man who lived his life in accordance with the virtues of the Beatitudes. For us, he will continue to serve as an example of how to live as a man of faith, a man of the nation, a man for the world.

Early this past summer, as I prepared to leave for the General Convention of the Episcopal Church, President Ford’s concern was for the church he loved. He asked me if we would face schism. After we discussed the various issues we would consider, particularly concerns about human sexuality and the leadership of women, he said he did not think they should be divisive for anyone who lived by the Great Commandments to love God and neighbor. He then asked me to work for reconciliation within the Church. I assured him I would, just as he had worked for reconciliation within the nation thirty years ago.

Happy New Year!

On behalf of the Diocese of Washington, I am authorized to wish you a Happy New Year.

On behalf of my older son, I am authorized to say: Go Blue!

And on behalf of myself, I direct your attention to an article in today's Washington Post which lists my beloved Friday Night Lights, among the shows in "Decent Shape," meaning it will endure at least through the end of this season. It's new time slot is Wednesday nights at 8.

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